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It’s time to move on from CentOS

by Jeremy L. Gaddis on April 11, 2011 · 5 comments

in Open Source

Friday, a mere three months after Red Hat announced general availability of RHEL 5.6, CentOS 5.6 has been officially released. For those unfortunate enough to still be running CentOS, however, it’s time to move on.

Those of you who have been around for a while may recall that the CentOS project sprang up out of the ruins of the White Box Enterprise Linux project. Unfortunately, it appears that CentOS is heading towards the same demise. Individuals, hosting companies, and enterprises throughout the world today rely on CentOS for their production servers — and they need a contingency plan.

Recently, the CentOS discussion lists have been full of long-time CentOS users wondering when 5.6 might be available. Others on the list have grown tired of waiting and already made the switch to Scientific Linux 6.0. While Scientific Linux didn’t release 5.6, they did announce SL 6.0 on March 3rd. It’s still anyone’s guess when CentOS 6 might be released (for comparison, RHEL 6 was announced on November 10th).

In addition, there had been no security updates to CentOS since January 6th — in fact, there had been only one since December 14th. Some of these updates were critical; others not so much. The fact remains, however, that there are a whole lot of CentOS machines out there running with a fair number of vulnerabilities present, contrary to CentOS’ declaration regarding “quickly rebuilt, tested, and QA’ed errata packages” [sic].

I’m quite aware that CentOS is a purely volunteer project available free of charge. Honestly, anyone running production machines that need the security updates (wouldn’t that be pretty much everyone?) should be running a more supported distribution (e.g. RHEL). Many use CentOS over RHEL for financial reasons — RHEL isn’t exactly cheap.

Perhaps, then, the CentOS team is strapped for resources and could make good use of other volunteers who would like to contribute to the project? Well, not so much. The CentOS lists are also full of people complaining how the project is private and closed and doesn’t want help from outside contributors. Offers of assistance are routinely discarded and, at times, responded to in a hostile manner.

Marian Marinov recently posted to the centos-devel list, saying “I want to offer hardware (build servers) and I also want to volunteer time for cleaning up packages.” For that he received a response from Russ Herrold telling him, “This is not the time for such efforts”.

Jerry Amundson wrote about the discrepancies between “what is expected from CentOS” and “what is delivered by CentOS”, adding “Period. End of story. Own up to it. Fix it”. Lead developer Karanbir Singh responded by telling him “Give up. Go home. The complexity of this stuff is beyond what you are able to parse.”

Although CentOS is short for “Community ENTerprise Operating System”, Johnny Hughes pointed out “CentOS is for the community … it is not BUILT buy the community.” [sic]

Dag Wieers recently wrote, “What I wrote in my resignation-letter still holds today: … the project lacks leadership, shows poor communication, little transparency and fails to engage more people from the community”.

Tom Sorenson also noted, “Rejecting offers for help in such an offhand way is really just poisoning the well — I know several people who are extremely qualified for rebuilding efforts that will not work with CentOS because of such offhand dismissals. And, frankly, it’s becoming extremely reminiscent of the final days of Whitebox before the CentOS project began.”

They’re both right.

With attitudes from the developers like have been witnessed recently, it’s fairly obvious that CentOS isn’t going to survive much longer without major changes at the highest levels. If you’re still running production CentOS machines, you may want to start working on a contingency plan.

I’ve been running Debian (on-and-off) for about 14 years. While it sometimes has issues too (mostly political), it is (in my opinion) the best Linux distribution out there. I’d invite you to take a look.

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