Four years later with CentOS and Red Hat

2 minute read

After 4 years of being at Red Hat, I still occasionally get questions that show not everyone understands what Red Hat means to CentOS, or what CentOS provides to Red Hat. They tend to think in terms of competition, like there’s an either or choice. Reality just doesn’t bear that out.

First and foremost, CentOS is about integration, and its important to know who the community is. We’re your sysadmins and operations teams. We’re your SREs, the OPS in your devops. We’re a force multiplier to developers, the angry voice that says “stop disabling SELinux” and “show me your unit tests”. We’re the community voice encouraging you to do things the right way, rather than taking an easy shortcut we know from experience will come back to bite you.

What we’re not is developers. We may pull in kernel patches, but we’re not kernel developers. We can help you do the root cause analysis to figure out why your app is suddenly not performing, but we aren’t the ones to write the code to fix it. We don’t determine priority for what does or doesn’t get fixed, that’s what Red Hat does.

The core distribution of CentOS is and has always been based on code written by Red Hat. This doesn’t mean it’s a choice of “either CentOS or RHEL,” because we’re in this together. CentOS provides Red Hat a community platform for building and testing things like OpenStack with RDO. We build new ecosystems around ARM servers. We provide a base layer for others to innovate around emerging technologies like NFV. But none of this would be possible without the work of RH’s engineering teams.

The community can build, organize and deliver tools in any number of creative ways, but ultimately the code behind them is being developed by engineers paid to address the needs of Red Hat’s customers. You can bet that RH is keeping an eye on what the CentOS community is using and building, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to business need.

We’re here to empower operators who want to experiment on top of the enterprise base lifespan. We’re here to bring tools and technology to those for whom it may be otherwise be out of reach. We’re here to take use cases and lessons learned from the community back to Red Hat as advocates. We’re happy to serve both audiences in this capacity, but let’s not forget how we buy the ‘free as in beer’.