Image: CentOS

It’s been a while, old friend. In fact, the last time you enjoyed a major release was over five years ago–CentOS 7 initially hit the ether on July 7, 2014. In IT terms, that’s almost a century or three. But don’t worry friend, we know you’ve remained stable, reliable, and secure the whole time.

However, your last release is a bit long in the tooth, so it’s a good thing your latest has arrived to bring to the faithful masses something new and fresh.

Said something new and fresh comes on the heels of the May 2019 release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8 and is called, as you probably expected, CentOS 8.

For those that don’t know, CentOS is the “community version” of RHEL and is functionally compatible with its upstream sibling (see What does upstream and downstream development even mean?). With the release of CentOS 8 comes a bevy of new features and improvements.

SEE: 10 free alternatives to Microsoft Word and Excel (TechRepublic download)

A word of warning and update

Although the release date is September 24, 2019, it seems the official CentOS site hasn’t made the downloads available. Because of that, I’ve been working with a pre-release version that doesn’t exactly function as expected. For example, when attempting to install or update software, all repositories fail to sync. I’m assuming this is due to the transition from 7 to 8, but I am not 100 percent certain.

Suffice it to say, I am certain by the time you are reading this, the ISO images will be made available and this shouldn’t be a problem upon installation of the full release candidate. That being said, let’s take a look at what’s to be found in the latest release from the CentOS developers.

As an update, by the time I completed the writing of this piece, the sudo dnf update command finally started working.

DNF and repositories

CentOS offers a bit of a different take on installing and updating packages. First off, the default package manager has migrated from YUM to DNF. The command structure for each is quite similar, so instead of running a command like:

sudo yum install httpd

You’d issue the command:

sudo dnf install httpd

For more information on DNF, see How to use the DNF package manager.

Next is the content distribution. CentOS 8 will follow in the footsteps of its enterprise sibling and offer two modes of Content distribution. For this there are only two repositories needed:

  1. BaseOS is the repository that provides the underlying core OS content.
  2. AppStream allows you to install additional versions of software that are on independent life cycles and also keeps CentOS up to date.

The desktop

Much to my surprise, the default installation for CentOS is no longer the GUI-less take often found in CentOS 7. Instead, CentOS 8 defaults to the GNOME desktop. Shipping with the latest iteration of CentOS is GNOME 3.28. This desktop features:

  • A new on-screen keyboard
  • A much-improved GNOME Boxes
  • Extended devices support (such as integration for Thunderbolt 3)
  • Improvements for numerous GNOME software packages
  • Wayland as the default display server (for better security, improved multi-monitor support, improved scaling, and better window handling)
  • Much, much more

Session Recording

This is a big feature that will give CentOS 8 a huge security boost. What Session Recording does is enable the admin to record all activity of users that connect to the server via SSH. This feature isn’t found out of the box and requires the installation of a couple of packages (tlog and cockpit-session-recording). Considering this feature can be used via the web-based GUI Cockpit, which is installed by default, it should be a real boon to CentOS admins looking to keep track of everything that happens on their server.

Component updates

There are plenty of updates to be found in CentOS 8. The highlight reel looks something like this:

  • Python 3.6
  • MariaDB 10.3, MySQL 8.0, PostgreSQL 9.6 and 10
  • Redis 4.0
  • HTTPD 2.4 and NGINX 1.14
  • OpenLDAP has been replaced by 369 LDAP Server
  • Varnish Cache 6.0
  • Git 2.17
  • Maven 3.5
  • Perl 5.24 and 5.26
  • PHP 7.1 and 7.2
  • Ruby 2.5
  • Node.js 8 and 10
  • Rust Toolset 1.26
  • Scala 2.10
  • Go Toolset 1.10
  • GCC System Compiler 8.1
  • .NET Core 2.1
  • Java 8 and 11
  • Pacemaker Cluster Resource Manager 2.0.0
  • Kernel 4.18.0-80

As you can see, there are a number of improvements and new features to be found in CentOS 8. Make sure to keep checking the CentOS website for the official release of this latest iteration of one of the most popular open source server platforms on the planet.