Alternatives to CentOS - An Analysis of Alternatives

News Topic Thread:
CentOS Becoming Rolling(-ish?) Release

So Cent OS has begun a new as Cent OS stream. Well let us see what our alternatives are. Comment below what alternative you will use and why? This isnt an overall which distribution should you use post. That belongs to @SgtAwesomesauce (I think. I couldnt find it in a search so no link for now)

LINK: So you're looking for a Linux Distro?

Welcome to an Analysis of Alternatives (or AoA in project management speak).

So what are we looking for? That is a pretty loaded question I feel. Linux is changing. The computing world is changing as a whole. Some things are moving faster. The older stable, patch tried and tested software mentality is beginning to be thrown out for faster development schemes. Some see this as bad to which I do not. Thus I will split the alternative options into three groups. Stable (LTS), Point and Rolling Release. Theres a case for each. They have their trade offs and benefits. If your Linux distribution did not make it well its likely due to lack of realistic use in an prod environment (sorry). A lot of people are disheartened to see the shortened support lifecycle of stream and 8. I think this change may have been inevitable but there maybe a lot of cost implications in terms of red hat licensing. We shall see how software reacts! That is the fun of this area of the computing world. It is very dynamic. Remember the purpose of an AoA is not to eliminate any choice. It is to put all options on the table. Your choices come later :wink:

I hope that a list of alternatives and seeing other people’s reasoning in comments will aid somebody somewhere in their own decision making! Let’s dig in.

Stable (LTS)

A stable or Long Term Support release distribution puts out installation images on a very rigid and fixed schedule. A new LTS release is typically released every two to four years. The support lifecycle typically hovers around the enterprise average lifecycle of 5 years. LTS applies the tenets of reliability engineering to the software development process and software release life cycle. Long-term support extends the period of software maintenance; it also alters the type and frequency of software updates (patches) to reduce the risk, expense, and disruption of software deployment, while promoting the dependability of the software. It does not necessarily imply technical support.


  • Well tested software
  • Generally bug free
  • Continous security updates
  • Stability is king


  • Backports
  • Incompatibilities between patches and software
  • Slow
  • Cumbersome and typically out of date


  • OpenSUSE LEAP (free) | Suse Linux Enterprise (commercial) - Potentially the best choice of all alternatives. This has probably the longest interval between releases of any of the point release distributions. However, it is a bit more aggressive about updating some major packages between point releases, so it doesn’t get uncomfortably out of date. Usually.
  • RHEL - DUH
  • Debian 10 - A solid classic distribution. Unfortunately the community itself is very fractured and lacking quality leadership lately.
  • Ubuntu Server LTS (20.04 currently) - A solid stable distribution. Polarizing due to tight integration with Snap Packages
  • Oracle Linux - @Dynamic_Gravity has more details than I. Very stable I heard but a lot of people do not trust oracle. Im sure the software itself is probably okay and built on stable rebranding of RHEL.
  • FreeBSD - The mighty stable networking beast of the UNIX world. A great alternative to using linux but package support may not be as widespread as Linux
  • Rocky Linux (Soon ™ )
    • Rocky Linux is a community enterprise operating system designed to be 100% bug-for-bug compatible with America’s top enterprise Linux distribution now that its downstream partner has shifted direction. It is under intensive development by the community. Rocky Linux is led by Gregory Kurtzer, founder of the CentOS project. There is no ETA for a release. Contributors are asked to reach out using the communication options offered on this site.
    • It is worth noting this project absolutely could fall apart and is by no means a project to rely on!


A point release distribution puts out installation images on some sort of a fixed schedule, typically something like every six months, nine months or even annually. Each such release is identified by a specific name, which usually includes either the date or sequence number of the release. In most cases, between the major releases only security bug fixes and updates are made to the Linux kernel and desktop environment, but policies on utilities and applications vary between distributions.


  • Generally tested software
  • Generally stable
  • Faster to update
  • Frozen software per release


  • Often has bugs
  • Strange hybrid between stable and rolling
  • Short lifecycle support
  • Same cons as stable


  • Fedora Server - A fast moving testing track of RHEL. Branched off of Fedora. Kernel updates are fast.
  • Ubuntu Server (Non LTS Current is 20.10) - - A solid short release distribution. Polarizing due to tight integration with Snap Packages


A rolling release is a model in which updates to a software are continuously rolled out, rather than in batches of versions. This way the software always remains up to date. A rolling release distribution follows the same model and it provides the latest Linux kernel and the software version as they are released. Thus a A rolling-release Linux distro is one that’s constantly being updated. To some of you, that will sound a lot like DevOps’ idea of continuous deployment. You’d be right in thinking so. In both cases, the idea is that users and developers are best served by giving them the latest updates and patches as they’re created. These minor incremental updates lead to less breakage and typically more compatibility as software is not frequently held back and the entire system is generally updated at approximately the same speed. Use on production may or may not be recommended depending on the situation. It is, however, becoming a more acceptable model which I trully love seeing.

A great video and case:


  • Releases are always up to date
  • Minor incremental changes
  • Patches are easier to implement
  • Lack of need for backports
  • Faster response to security bugs


  • Library and package incompatibilites with slower/traditional lifecycle software
  • Continuous support lifecycle maybe difficult for some
  • Potential for newer bugs more frequently


What have I chosen?

In my disorganized changeBlog :stuck_out_tongue: , PhaseLockedLoopable you will find I have a slew of different OSes. This is what one should expect however my choices are debian (raspberry pi) and SUSE- Tumbleweed for all other systems. Including a laptop. You might find it strange I used a rolling release on a production home server. The truth of the matter is with all the ZFS updates and cloud updates and the software I plan to use on the system; point releases just wont serve me what I want and I am sick of updating, and by extension breaking, point releases. I am sure the forum will find out how this adventure goes. I am quite excited! Its mostly operational. Just waiting on more hardware before converting the system to a server. I need a laptop (its a terrible time to buy).

Concluding notes

I do definitely recommend OpenSUSE or SLE as the current competitor if we look at the current market and assess future risk. It provides various kinds of releases and has amazing documentation and tools. The installer is second to none and the community does seem to have the best alternative track record to Cent OS and it is currently operated and owned by a US company. Its future looks rather bright. All distributions have their tough times in their community with Debian having a very bad time recently with finding any clear leadership. This is not good for a distribution and has the potential to lead to its demise. Fortunately for debian the size of its reach seems to be its current lifeline.

Overall I cant do all the risk analysis for everyone’s situation only my own. I would love to hear what your analysis of alternatives lead you to. Sound off in the comments to talk about what you chose and why. Please distrubition discussions are fine. Distro wars will be met with a swift clean. It typically yields a zero sum discussion to war over which is better. They are all just kernels, a package manager and a set of tools.

There are arguments for and against each model. Choose the model that fits you best not what others argue :wink:

Other Resources:


Rolling vs. Fixed release Linux Distros? Which one is Best for You? | Average Linux User

Linux distributions: Rolling releases vs point releases, which should you choose? | ZDNet

Rolling vs. Point Release Linux Distros – Which is better? | FOSS Linux

Are Rolling Release Linux Distributions Suitable For Your Server?

UPDATE 1: Alternatives to CentOS - An Analysis of Alternatives - #23 by PhaseLockedLoop

Im sure you can find more


You missed a few suitable candidates:

  • Devuan - In short, Devuan is Debian Stable minus systemd. Due to the nature of the distro, it lags behind Debian by a few months as it has significantly less dev’s then its big brother.

  • Gentoo - Solid base, large repositories, but a little conservative as in having somewhat older software. In that respect comparable to Debian Stable. Still, the Sysrescuecd folks, amongst others, use it as their base distro.

  • Funtoo - Funtoo is Gentoo-on-the-edge. Has more recent software, still decently stable and like Gentoo, build-as-you-go so optimised to your machine. Recent developments make a binary-based version possible at sometime in the future. Collaborating with Sabayon in software development.

Hear Hear!

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I’m not quite sure but I don’t know if those suggestions fall in the realm of server space? I could be wrong. Interesting. I am not a big fan of system d but I see it as inevitable. Lol

Yes :beers:

They do, IMO. In fact, any Linux distro can potentially be used as a server OS, just some are more geared towards desktop use. But for basic tasks like web, ftp, ssh et all, normally any decent Linux distro will do.

Funtoo server side is based on LXD, a container hypervisor. Not as visually slick as some enterprise GUI solutions like ProxMox and unRAID, but fully functional :wink:


Prior to making any huge changes in my home lab setup, I started running OEL 8 with Oracle’s cloud platform. It feels just like CentOS 8, for good reason, and it’s just as snappy. I’m still going to look into Debian myself just to see as it’s been a few years since I’ve ran it. I’m also looking at still running Stream, depending upon what ends up happening in the long run. All-in-all I’m quite excited to see what new players come out now that this change has occurred! Thanks for the great post @PhaseLockedLoop!

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IMO, there should be a clear distinction between rolling-release “stable” and rolling-release “bleeding-edge.” In the former I would categorize OpenSUSE Tumbleweed and Void Linux, in the later, Arch and Artix Linux.

Speaking of which:

  • Void Linux:
    – +/- Rolling stable
    – + Not a fork of anything
    – +/- No systemd, uses Runit
    – + Has an insane number of packages in its main repo, the ones surprising me being monitoring software like Zabbix, Prometheus, Icinga2, Nagios, Monit and more. Really didn’t expect those.
    – + Absolutely rock-solid and fast package manager and great updating experience, proven by trial by fire
    – - Lots of drama in the community
    – + Always manages to get back together and keeps releasing a fantastic distro
    – + Has A LOT supported platforms, including x86, x86_64, ARMv6l/v7l/aarch64 (of which there are a generic image, Odroid-C2, RPi 1-3 with support for 4 incoming, PineBook/Pro, Beaglebone, Cubbieboard2, USB Armory etc.), unofficial POWER support (ppc, ppc64, ppc64 little endian) thanks to q66.
    – + Releases in both glibc and musl for all architectures, making for a total of 16 different releases
    – + Void-mklive is an image/live/rootfs maker and installer if you want to easily compile Void from source

  • Alpine Linux:
    – + Stable (LTS) for around 2 years with a focus on security
    – + Not a fork of anything
    – +/- No systemd, uses OpenRC
    – + Very, very fast
    – + Absolutely tiny, with 130 MB of space for a minimal install
    – + Hardened Kernel
    – +/- Musl-only version
    – + Have I mentioned blazing fast? It’s fast, ok? APK is faster than XBPS and any other package managers
    – ? Apparently used in a lot of docker images that don’t require glibc, because of how small it is

Void began as a test project for XBPS, but it was so simple and good that it became a good distro to stand on its own. It began as a desktop distro, but it is really solid as a server OS too and I’m planning to start many VMs at my “home data center” using Void and where I can get away with, Alpine.

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More trivia: at work I will move any VMs and servers running CentOS 8 to Oracle Linux 8. First, because I’m lazy and makes the migration dumb-easy and it only takes 15 minutes at most, second because we kinda need some RHEL package compatibility (not for production, but for our staging / testing VMs) and third because OL is basically what CentOS used to be, if you install the normal kernel, but why would you do that, when UEK (“Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel”) is newer, arguably just as stable and is what Oracle tests the release with the most.

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So I’m only here as a reminder to try to keep this thread on topic. Try to suggest linux distributions that are within the realm of “production use,” so please refrain from suggesting obscure linux distributions that don’t have enough community or professional support. I’m not saying that your favourite linux distribution isn’t good, but it needs to be applicable in the context of this thread.

Basically this.

The idea is what linux distributions are actually used by enterprises and can be easily supported.

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Linking for posterity: So you're looking for a Linux Distro?


If you want a drop-in replacement for CentOS and you’re using RHEL-things like oVirt, FreeIPA, OpenShift, etc, these are the only options that are remotely close IMO.

  1. Try CentOS Stream and see how it goes
  2. Try Oracle Linux and see if you can still look at yourself in the mirror
  3. There was some talk of a free RHEL?
  4. And yeah we’ll see how Rocky goes…

Distant 2nds if you’re simply using CentOS to do generic server things.

  1. OpenSuse Leap
  2. Ubuntu LTS
  3. Debian

I wouldn’t consider Fedora a suitable alternative as the upgrade cycle is too frequent and stability isn’t there. FreeBSD and other linux distros are fine, but don’t really resemble CentOS in any meaningful way, so I wouldn’t consider them alternatives specifically to CentOS.


Right, I kinda forgot about this. I would personally arrange them in the following order:

  1. Oracle Linux
  2. OpenSUSE Leap*
  3. Ubuntu LTS
  4. Debian

Rocky sounds cool, but it is an uncertain project at this point in time.
*I put OpenSUSE in the second place because I know of its stability and praise in the enterprise, but as always, if I haven’t used it, I cannot vouch for it.

Has anyone tried Amazon Linux 2? How about Clear Linux as a replacement for CentOS in some cases?


I can. its praise is well earned and often highly understated. They have a strong leadership in the community and a couple really really really good devs in charge of most of their distro packaging and testing teams


How would you feel about collaborating on a project?

Depends on the project. Sounds interesting. You know how to reach me :wink:

Personally, replacing CentOS with Oracle Linux had been my approach at work for quite a while before even any idea of a rolling CentOS release. For the simple reason, that I can suggest clients to use Oracle Linux in production if they don’t feel like buying a RHEL license outright. With OEL, they have the ready option to upgrade to paid support.

I’m not a fan of Oracle the corporation but from a purely business perspective, it is the next best alternative. Feel like RHEL/CentOS is shooting themselves in the foot with this move.


We’re (well my dad; I’m tagging along :smiley_cat: ) shifting from CentOS to openSUSE Leap for servers. Since the software my dad works on is made to run on lots of different *nix platforms, it’s easy to switch over and if SUSE does some shenanigans, then switching again will be no big deal either.

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Tumbleweed is okay if you arent focused on 100 percent up time btw.

Yeah LEAP is pretty sweet. YaST makes you lazy lol

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Yeah, Dad wants the bare-metal servers to be rock-solid so he can work. :slight_smile:

Dad is making me learn on the command line though. :stuck_out_tongue:

Plus teaching me Ansible now (have to even make my own playbook on a set of VMs, not just run his).


type in yast2 in the CLI :wink:

Baremetal… mmmm nah containerize your stuff. Makes it easier. Keep baremetal clean

havent gotten around to that. Just mucking around with KVM and dockers


Well the base OS has to run on the bare metal though? Most of his stuff he puts VMs for dev/testing, but it’s not the kind of stuff you put in containers; it’s made to run on big single-purpse computers. I don’t think I can say more though, partly because its way over my head. :stuck_out_tongue: