Rocky Linux Makes a Comeback as a CentOS Alternative

With CentOS 8 upgrades and support set to be discontinued at the end of December 2021, current users are seeking alternatives. Fortunately, there’s an excellent solution that will fill the CentOS-sized hole in your heart; Rocky Linux!

Let’s go through some of the reasons why our experts recommend Rocky Linux for current CentOS 8 users.

Some Background

CentOS has been a thorn in Red Hat’s side since 2004. Its binary compatibility with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) meant that it could do everything that RHEL could. The only element users lacked with CentOS was corporate support, so if you didn’t need that, there was no reason to utilize RHEL. Therefore, CentOS experienced massive adoption, even with major brands across the globe; Disney and GoDaddy to name a couple.

Because of this, Red Hat set their sights on CentOS. In 2014, Red Hat started to offer financial backing for CentOS developers. This allowed them to work on the project full-time, but it didn’t stop there. Red Hat then negotiated a governance structure that would give Red Hat a permanent majority on the CentOS board. At this point, Red Hat essentially owned the CentOS project.

In December of 2020, Red Hat announced that it was truncating support for and discontinuation of CentOS 8, and the introduction of CentOS Stream.

CentOS Stream: What’s the Problem?

So, why shouldn’t CentOS 8 users switch to CentOS Stream? And why is Red Hat’s decision so controversial?

CentOS Stream is a development stream for RHEL. Development streams are cutting-edge, however, they are incapable of reaching stability. This is because they’re testing environments. They’re constantly in a state of flux as developers work on the platform.

Therefore, Red Hat’s decision is controversial because it was a bit of a trojan horse. They portrayed the situation as if they were releasing a new, exciting chapter for CentOS. However, they were actually transforming CentOS 8 into something that your average user wouldn’t want to use. And they were doing this to force people onto their own product, Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Rocky Linux: A New Hope

Following Red Hat’s recent decision to move its attention away from CentOS, Rocky Linux was launched to provide the community with an alternative.

However, its origins can be linked to its creator’s desire to provide a superior alternative based on lessons learned during CentOS’ development, rather than a response to Red Hat’s contentious move.

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) has released Rocky Linux 8.4, a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be-defunct CentOS. Red Hat abandoned support for the widely used, free CentOS server operating system six and a half months ago, and the GA version came six and a half months later.

Gregory M. Kurtzer, co-creator of CentOS and inventor of Singularity and Warewulf, created the Rocky Linux development effort in honor of late CentOS co-founder Rocky McGaugh.

Rocky Linux, which is aimed to be bug-for-bug compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, fills the void created by the loss of a stable, free CentOS 8, and CIQ decreases the cost of  a supported distro. Furthermore, unlike the switch from CentOS (or CentOS Stream) to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which (while extremely comparable) is still an operating system change, adding support for Rocky does not necessitate an operating system change. The community is putting a lot of effort into it, guided at the helm by Kurtzer.

Rocky Linux’s initial release candidate version was published on April 30, 2021, followed by its first public availability version on June 21, 2021. Rocky Linux 8 will continue to be maintained until May 2029.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll notice that the Rocky Linux 8.3 release candidate isn’t scheduled for a stable release. Instead, another 8.4 RC 1 version was released, which was ultimately made available to the public.


Reception for Rocky Linux has been stellar in the wake of the Red Hat’s announcement. In the first 72 hours post-launch, RL received 70,000 downloads on just ONE of their mirrors.

Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are on-board as well. Google is a principal sponsor of the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation and they’ve provided resources for testing and validation. Amazon Web Services is also a principal sponsor and they provide vital infrastructure for Rocky Linux. Microsoft is a partner of the RESF and they have worked extensively to ensure that it is available on Azure.

Rocky Linux has made a splash in a short span of time. They’ve made it abundantly clear that they are making it as difficult as possible for the same thing that happened to CentOS to happen to RL. Here’s a quote from

“History has shown that there are always loopholes for bad actors no matter what the entity type is. This is why we feel that the integrity, accountability, and transparency of the people involved in the project is the most critical aspect for determining the long term sustainability and viability of any project.”

This commitment to integrity, accountability, and transparency is a foundational piece of the RESF’s driving force. It rings true with believers in open-source tech and signals that Rocky Linux is focused on succeeding where CentOS did not.

Overview of Rocky Linux 8.4

Rocky Linux 8.4, based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4, is a community-driven enterprise operating system. It has been proven to work for moving from Alma Linux, CentOS Linux 8.4, RHEL 8.4, and Oracle Linux 8.4.

A few significant modifications to note:

Enhancements to Security

TCP encapsulation support has been added to Libreswan’s IPsec VPN, as well as security labels for the IKEv2 protocol.

There are a few security tool package improvements that enhance memory management as well. For instance, the scap-security-guide packages were rebased to version 0.1.54, and OpenSCAP was rebased to version 1.3.4.

Identity Management (IdM)

RL 8.4 provides Ansible modules for automated management of access control for role-based users in Identity Management, backup and restoration of IdM servers, and a location management Ansible module.

Kernel Enhancements

There are several new items as well as some technical adjustments to enhance memory allocation.

Rocky Linux 8.4 now has a new slab memory controller implementation for control groups technology. The slab memory controller improves slab utilization and allows memory accounting to be moved from the page to the object level. As a result, the entire kernel memory footprint has decreased significantly, and memory fragmentation has improved.

Proactive compaction allows for memory compaction before an allocation request is even made. This results in a lower latency time for memory allocation requests.

To operate with Intel 8th and 9th generation CPUs, Rocky Linux 8.4 has the Error Detection and Correction (EDAC) kernel module.

Other Enhancements

Rocky Linux 8.4 has some of the most recent modules, including:

  1. SWIG 4.0
  2. PostgreSQL 13
  3. MariaDB 10.5
  4. Python 3.9
  5. Subversion 1.14
  6. Redis 6

GCC Toolset 10, LLVM Toolset 11.0.0, Rust Toolset 1.49.0, and Go Toolset 1.15.7 are among the compiler tool sets that have been upgraded.

Wrapping Up: Rocky Linux, the New CentOS

So we hope this has given you some perspective on why you should use Rocky Linux to replace CentOS 8. It’s an open-source, drop-in alternative for CentOS that will give you the functionality you’re used to. Why subscribe to RHEL when you don’t have to?

Rocky Linux is just getting started and it’s guided by seasoned pros who have learned and improved upon the mistakes of CentOS. If you’re convinced and you want to get started, give us a call today! Our experts will help get you up-and-running with Rocky Linux quickly and correctly.

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