There’s no escaping the continual technological push that ripples throughout all industries. The big tech corporations are on a continual pursuit of innovation, and when they shift — such as updating operating systems or sunsetting support for favored versions of software — the entire world shifts.
Many well-known enterprises utilize Linux OS. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 (RHEL 8) takes Linux to the enterprise-level by providing stable and extensible infrastructure and management capabilities.
CentOS 8 is an RHEL 8 affiliate but maintains its open-source feature while continuing to offer the capabilities of RHEL 8.
Considering the resources required for shifting to a new operating system (OS) or upgrading the current one, you may be wondering whether RHEL 8 or CentOS 8 is worth the investment.
Linux is an open-source operating system that allows anyone to contribute to its systemic development and modify the source code. Linux is a secure OS and provides free software you can download from the command console. One of the many upsides of using Linux is that it has a high degree of customizability; however, Linux is for those who are better experienced in IT. Since new kernels are released roughly every three months, Linux also has fast development times. Linux is the most widely used operating system for web servers, commercial systems are often based on Linux.
Red Hat is a commercial enterprise software product company partnered with its open-source community-oriented counterpart Fedora, that redistributes the Linux OS, but with changes that the company has made to the source code.
The changes made to the code allow for different functions that are specifically designed for implementing Linux for both small and medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) and Enterprise-level users (hence the name).
RHEL 8 is a Linux distribution provided by Red Hat and has the distinct advantage of being open-source; therefore, anyone with programming knowledge is able to change the OS to fit their personal preference.
RHEL 8 is the leading Linux server OS used by enterprises. RHEL 8 provides a stable and secure operating system while also allowing developers to use the latest tools and packages to manage their OS. Thus, RHEL 8 offers a balance between stability and the need for tailoring apps and other IT infrastructure.
CentOS is another Linux distribution just like RHEL; however, there are a few key differences between the two. CentOS is a fork of Red Hat, meaning it has many similarities with RHEL 8.x, and is based on Red Hat’s code. CentOS is the “community version” of RHEL and is functionally compatible with its upstream sibling. As a result, CentOS may receive updates slower as RedHat (“upstream”) has to release the update first.
Like RHEL 8, the CentOS 8 distribution is also useful for enterprise and management. Unlike Red Hat, however, CentOS 8 is free. This allows users with lower budgetary resources to access some of the same features as Red Hat. With CentOS 8 you don’t have to pay for licensing or service, so it’s a superb choice for clients who don’t want to spend an enormous amount of money for an OS.
RHEL’s technical support is staffed by trusted open-source engineers and offers Application Binary Interface (ABI) and Application Program Interface (API) compatibility. Previous versions of Red Hat, such as RHEL 5, 6, and 7, are all offered 10 years of support after release. Extended subscription and support for versions 5, 6, and 7 are provided past the 10-year mark, according to the Red Hat website.
The newest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (REHL 8) brings some fresh features to their OS offering. This is the first major update of Red Hat since June 2014 and brings a revised web console, application streams, improvements in security, and configurations capabilities.
Since REHL 8 is the upstream source for CentOS, and the main difference between the two is the cost (REHL 8 has subscription costs while CentOS is completely open-source), both are virtually identical when it comes to their features and benefits. One other thing to consider is that CentOS, being downstream from REHL 8, receives updates after REHL 8.
The new web console is based on the open-source project “Cockpit” and was first used in Fedora 25, which is Red-Hat’s open-source, free to use counterpart. Cockpit provides a lightweight server administration web interface that doesn’t consume any resources unless it’s being used. Cockpit is also extendable, which allows it to be used for SELinux Management, Virtual Machine Management, Docker Management, Inspection of System and Application Logs, Network Configuration, Storage Configuration, Monitoring of System Vitals, etc.
The new Application Streams feature allows an organization to choose from different versions of supported software for RHEL 8.
Multiple versions of user-space components are now delivered and are also updated more frequently than the core operating system packages. This provides the ability to customize Red Hat Enterprise Linux without impacting the stability of the system.
Components made available as Application Streams can be packaged as modules or RPM packages. These are delivered through the AppStream repository.
The YUM package manager is now based on the DNF technology and provides support for modular content, increased performance, and a stable API for use with tooling.
Selected YUM plug-ins and utilities have also been ported to the new DNF back end. Therefore, they can be installed under the same names as in RHEL 7. Users are advised to migrate their plug-ins and scripts to the new API provided by YUM v4 (DNF Python API).
RHEL 8 comes with the kernel version 4.18.0-80. In the previous version, the kernel-signing-ca.cer key was located in the kernel-doc package. This time, in RHEL 8, kernel-signing-ca.cer has been moved to the kernel-core. The new RHEL 8 kernel supports enhanced IBRS for future Intel CPUs. This means the RHEL 8 kernel supports the use of enhanced Indirect Branch Restricted Speculation (IBRS), This allows the capability to mitigate the Spectre V2 vulnerability. Also, the kernel-rt sources have been updated to use the latest RHEL kernel source tree.
With this REHL 8/CentOS 8 update, there is a consistent use of smart cards and Hardware Security Modules (HSM) with PKCS #11 cryptographic token interface. This means the user and administrator can use the same syntax for all related tools. RHEL 8 now provides support for HSMs and smart cards and is available for NSS, GnuTLS, and OpenSSL (through the openssl-pkcs11 engine) applications.
There are also new features to the TLS 1.3 protocol, such as session resumption or post-handshake authentication implemented in the RHEL 8 OpenSSL library. Be advised, the OpenSSL TLS library does not detect if the PKCS#11 token supports creation of raw RSA or RSA-PSS signatures.
There are many new features that have been added to RHEL 8 and CentOS 8 that can make your enterprise OS experience easier and more controllable. For new systems that require an OS, you should install the latest version of the OS, as you’ll start with all the upgraded features, and have no need to worry about migrating your system until the next major update. Subscribers on the new system would also not have to worry about paying extra to have their version of the OS supported past the 10 years of support already offered.
For pre-existing OS systems running on previous versions of RHEL 8 or CentOS 8, if there is a specific feature provided by the 8.x version of these systems that would significantly benefit your enterprise, you should upgrade.
ServaxNet’s team of experts can custom tailor a solution to your needs with migrating your infrastructure to RHEL 8/CentOS 8 with minimal to no downtime. We can help you leverage the numerous features and benefits of RHEL8/CentOS 8 with our managed services: Server Management, Managed Hosting Environments, or Hourly Consultation. Contact us today for a quote.