Lansweeper finds a lot of CentOS Linux out there

Network scan reveals 26 percent of Linux boxes are CentOS 7, EOL later this month. What happens next?

Lansweeper's scans of its customers' networks found an awful lot of Linux boxes facing imminent end of life, with no direct upgrade path. This, for clarity, is a very bad thing.

The latest survey shows that there is rather more use of CentOS Linux 7 than one might reasonably expect. Although we'd definitely dispute Lansweeper's conclusions, it seems that CentOS Linux achieved pretty good market penetration – and penetration is exactly what all those machines will be open to, starting next month.

Belgian corporate network scanner vendor Lansweeper periodically collates some of the statistics collected by its users and publishes the results. The Register has reported on these numbers more than once. Last year, Lansweeper exposed Windows 11's 8 percent adoption following the previous year's report that four out of ten PCs couldn't run Windows 11.

This year's report says that while a third of its users' Linux machines run Ubuntu, second place goes to CentOS Linux. Back in 2020, Red Hat brought CentOS Linux 8's end of life forward from 2029 to the end of 2021. CentOS Linux 9 was canceled, CentOS Linux 8 is dead and gone, leaving only CentOS Linux 7. As we reported in May, CentOS 7's end of life is very close now – the end of June. After this month, no more updates.

Of course, Red Hat will be happy to help you migrate to RHEL. It offers a free tool to switch boxes' package source, but RHEL 7 hits what Red Hat terms "the end of its maintenance support 2 phase" on the same day. RHEL 7 isn't EOL, but you'll need to pay extra for "Extended Lifecycle Support (ELS)" to keep security fixes coming.

Lansweeper seems confident this will happen:

Assuming most of the CentOS devices will migrate over to RHEL, we can expect RHEL to comfortably take over first place from Ubuntu soon.

The numbers are a little surprising. After CentOS comes RHEL, with a hair over 20 percent, and trailing far behind, Oracle Linux with under 4 percent and Rocky Linux with less than 1.5 per cent. Lansweeper's assumption is that CentOS Linux users will just pay to switch to RHEL, which would give the IBM subsidiary nearly half the market. That seems like a big leap of faith to us, as we said to the company. It replied:

Migrating to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) offers several advantages. Given that CentOS Linux is based on RHEL, organizations can leverage many of the same tools and methodologies, which helps to reduce the learning curve. Additionally, RHEL provides comprehensive support and a reliable environment, ensuring that systems remain secure and operate efficiently.

These are all fair points, but then again, it did also mention:

The alternatives mentioned were merely examples provided by the publisher of CentOS.

Which is legitimate, and that will indeed be what some finance directors will do. Never underestimate the influence of simple ignorance – for instance, of alternatives – in shaping the market: "We are using this free product, but it's been discontinued, so we will move to the paid version instead."

The ending of CentOS Linux was a calculated gamble for Red Hat. As we said when CentOS Steam 9 came out, The Reg FOSS desk feels that Red Hat made a mistake in 2014 when it brought CentOS in house. Both before and after, it has made repeated efforts to kill off the rebuilds.

As this vulture said on the FOSDEM panel about the move, the wording of the GPL only obliges Red Hat to provide its source code to its users, which for RHEL means paying customers and signed-up developers – not to the whole world for free.

It will take concerted action to move those CentOS 7 boxes to RHEL 7, including paying for licenses for them all – then you'll either need to pay more for RHEL 7 ESL support, or promptly upgrade again to RHEL 8. Saying that, RHEL 8.10, the last point release, just came out and with that, RHEL 8 is about to go into "maintenance support." So ideally, you'd want to proceed to RHEL 9 sharpish. That's three migrations for the price of, er, three.

Facing all that work and cost, we suspect that the freeloaders running CentOS Linux might well migrate to one of the RHELatives instead. CIQ publishes guidance on how to migrate to Rocky Linux, and will help if you buy its CIQ Bridge service. AlmaLinux has more than that with its ELevate tool to perform in-place version upgrades, as we described back in 2022.

Or, of course, you could just reinstall with Debian, and run anything you can't immediately reprovision in a free RHEL container image. ®

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