April 26, 2019

CentOS: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Minus Red Hat

Getting Something For Nothing

  • December 23, 2004
  • By Carla Schroder
Users who want Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS3 without actually paying money for it have a number of options:
  1. Steal it
  2. Download and compile the source code
  3. Pretend to be an ace computer journalist and scam a "review" copy from Red Hat
  4. Find a free-beer distribution that compiles the sources for you, packages them into nice .isos for download, and gives them away
This review examines option 4. There are at least three Linux distributions that do this: White Box Linux, Tao Linux, and CentOS. But wait, you say, what about Fedora? Fedora is a nice distribution, but it is not RHEL: "Red Hat Linux now has two descendents, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and The Fedora Project..." Fedora has a lot of differences from RHEL; it consists of less-tested, newer releases of packages. For example, RHEL still uses XFree86, while Fedora runs X.org. Fedora can run other filesystems, like ReiserFS and JFS, while RHEL is limited to ext2/3. Fedora runs a 2.6.9-x kernel, while RHEL uses a 2.4.21-x kernel with chunks from the 2.6 tree bolted on. And so forth, you get the idea- they are not the same.

CentOS is a project of the cAosity Foundation, which is a non-profit devoted to producing "...enterprise-level, community-produced and managed Linux solutions." It includes pretty much everything you'll find in RHEL, minus Red Hat trademarks and any non-free packages. You too can re-package RHEL, just do like CentOS and go to ftp://ftp.redhat.com/pub/redhat/linux/enterprise/3/en/os/i386/SRPMS. Download the sources, compile them, and voila! Instant RHEL.

In addition to repackaging a free-beer version of RHEL, the cAosity Foundation also produces the cAos Linux distribution and Cinch, a lightweight Linux installer.

CentOS 3, the current incarnation, is the free-beer equivalent of RHEL AS3, which is the biggest baddest Red Hat edition, supporting up to 16 CPUs and 64GB of RAM; suitable for powering datacenters, mainframes, and mission-critical servers of all kinds.

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