Open source enterprise software vendor Red Hat received a ton of derision last year when it moved its CentOS Linx distribution to a continuous version distribution. After that, users everywhere complained, companies (such as cPanel) removed support, and a number of new 1: 1 compatible binary replacements (such as AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux) were born.
And yet, CentOS Stream keeps moving forward. Earlier this month, Red Hat released version 9 of CentOS Stream, which coincides with the end of life of CentOS 8 (ergo, the end of CentOS as we know and love it).
But fear not, Red Hat is here with CentOS 9 Stream.
Here’s how the release cycle works: New features will be tested on Fedora, then released in parallel on CentOS Stream and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which is the company’s flagship Linux distribution.
In the words of Red Hat:
CentOS Stream is a continuous delivery distribution serving as the next interim release of RHEL. Before a package is officially introduced into CentOS Stream, it undergoes a battery of testing and verification, both automated and manual, to ensure that it meets the stringent standards for packages to be included in RHEL. Updates released to CentOS Stream are the same as updates released to the unpublished minor version of RHEL. The goal? So that CentOS Stream is as fundamentally stable as RHEL itself.
Let’s try to explain this a little better using the current versions.
Fedora 34 was the same codebase as RHEL 9 and serves as the starting point for CentOS 9 Stream. As packages are updated, pass rigorous testing, and meet Red Hat standards for stability, they are then pushed into CentOS Stream and the nightly version of RHEL. In other words, what is available in the CentOS stream was based on the stable version of Fedora and will eventually make its way into future versions of RHEL.
It’s confusing, so let’s just say CentOS Stream and RHEL Nightly are (apart from some brands) the same thing.
For those who prefer a visual aid, Red Hat offers the one shown in Figure 1.
What’s in the CentOS 9 stream?
The great thing about CentOS 9 Stream is that it’s a bit of the opposite of what CentOS once was. In the past, CentOS was all about stability. Because of this, the packages were very slow to upgrade to newer versions. In fact, you would often find packages that were older than a few versions. This was done by design, to keep the operating system as absolutely solid as possible. And it worked. CentOS has always been incredibly stable.
On the contrary, CentOS Stream is at the cutting edge of technology. You will have the latest versions of most of the software you depend on. For example, CentOS 9 Stream ships with the GNOME 40 desktop. Although this is a late release, it is still more advanced than what CentOS would have otherwise been.
Other additions include:
- PHP 8.0
- Python 3.9
- MariaDB 10.5
- Nginx 1.20
- CCG 11.2
As for the core? A quick run of
uname -r reveals that my newly installed instance of CentOS 9 Stream is running kernel 5.14.0-34.el9.x86_64.
CentOS Stream also comes with Podman version 3.4.3 installed, so you are ready to work with containers. And for those who wish to manage their installation via the Cockpit web UI, it will still have to be activated with the command:
sudo systemctl enable --now cockpit.socket
Once you’ve enabled it, point a browser to https: // SERVER: 9090 (where SERVER is the IP address of your CentOS 9 Stream server) and log in with the root user credentials . After logging into Cockpit, you will find that Podman support is already built in (Figure 2), so that you can immediately start managing your containers with this exceptional graphical interface.
Via Cockpit, you should notice (during installation) that everything is already up to date (figure 3).
This is a nice side effect of using a continuous build distribution, as you don’t have to immediately turn around and upgrade the system the second your installation is complete.
Should you be using the CentOS 9 stream?
This is an important question that preoccupies many Linux administrators and businesses. Here is the answer.
If you are looking for a test bed to use for development and intend to deploy it in an upcoming release of RHEL, then CentOS 9 Stream is exactly what you want. If, on the other hand, you want an operating system for production environments that needs to be very stable, then CentOS 9 Stream is probably not your best choice. For these environments, you should go straight to Red Hat Enterprise Linux or go for one of the alternatives, such as AlmaLinux or Rocky Linux.
Either way, I found CentOS 9 Stream to be pleasantly solid and just as familiar as CentOS always has been. The difference is that the packages are much newer and the support is not that long. Would I deploy CentOS 9 Stream in a production environment? No. Would I choose to use it for a RHEL-based development environment? Without hesitation.
If you want to dive into the stream, download a copy of CentOS 9 Stream now and launch it.