What Is CentOS 8 and What's Included?

Learn about this notable CentOS release

In the Linux world, CentOS is a big deal. That’s because it’s a clone of the largest corporate Linux distribution out there, Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL). It isn’t just similar to RHEL, it’s an exact copy, built from the RHEL source code, just without all the Red Hat branding.

What is CentOS?

Just like RHEL, CentOS is an enterprise grade Linux distribution. In fact, CentOS is actually a shortened form of “Community Enterprise Operating System.” Because it uses the exact same code as RHEL, CentOS can do nearly everything its corporate counterpart can, and it shares compatibility with everything that works on RHEL.

CentOS 8 Desktop

CentOS is mainly targeted toward servers and developer workstations. Like RHEL, it’s built for situations where stability is paramount. You won’t find the latest and greatest features and flashy apps on CentOS, but it will be able to run your web applications with virtually no downtime.

Why Choose CentOS?

If you’ve ever purchased shared web hosting, there’s a good chance you already have chosen CentOS, even if you didn’t know it. That’s because most web hosting companies rely CentOS for nearly their entire operation.

If you aren’t quite convinced, think about how many web hosts advertise cPanel support. cPanel only runs on RHEL and CentOS systems. Since each RHEL installation requires a costly support contract, it’s a pretty safe bet that CentOS is the Linux distribution behind all those hosting plans.

That brings up a key point about the role of CentOS in the Linux ecosystem. Because CentOS is a clone of RHEL, it enables businesses to take advantage of Red Hat’s technology without paying a hefty premium for support on every machine. An IT manager could opt to purchase a RHEL contract for only their most critical machine, while deploying CentOS to every other server or workstation on the network.

CentOS also benefits from Red Hat’s world class training programs. An admin could train and receive Red Hat certification, then apply that certification to running and maintaining CentOS machines. It’s all interchangeable. As a result, there are plenty of IT professionals experienced in supporting both RHEL and CentOS.

Should You Choose CentOS?

CentOS is easily one of the best options for a free server distribution. It’s an excellent candidate for both small businesses and enterprises alike. It also has the advantage of being one of the most widely supported distributions, so it shouldn’t be hard to get help or hiring someone to maintain your network.

Should you choose CentOS for an everyday desktop? Probably not. CentOS is fantastic for professional applications, but all the things that make it great for businesses make it terrible for individuals. Would you really want to use the same stale software for over five years? Even still, you’d have limited access to multimedia and gaming applications. That’s just not what CentOS was made for.

What’s New In CentOS 8?

Most obviously, the release of CentOS 8 brings with it new versions of… everything. Seriously, the slow release cycle of CentOS and RHEL systems means that software sits without significant version updates for years. With how fast the open source software world moves, those years may as well be decades. CentOS 8 brings upgrades to the GNOME desktop environment, PHP, Python, Ruby, Git, popular web servers, and just about every tool and utility you could imagine.

Speaking of new tools, CentOS 8 brings the GNOME Boxes feature that integrates graphical virtual machine management into your desktop. Boxes makes it easier for a system admin or developer to create and manage VMs without installing a laundry list of additional third party software.

CentOS 8 also brings another convenient management feature that’s been common on Fedora for a while, Cockpit. Cockpit is designed as an all-in-one web-based management interface for network admins to access all the systems they run on a network from a single place that’s tightly integrated with their system.

AppStream is a real game changer in terms of providing updated software to CentOS systems. AppStream is an optional repository that provides a steady stream of updated applications. This is an excellent options for workstations.

The CentOS package manager, YUM, was updated to its fourth version. This one is based off of Fedora’s DNF package manager and offers new features from it. You also now have the option to use DNF full time in place of YUM.

If you were wondering if it’s worth the upgrade to CentOS 8, the answer is a pretty resounding “Yes,” provided your network and current scripts are ready to make the jump.