RHEL 8 now available, though CentOS users will need to wait for updates

Users of Red Hat Enterprise Linux are able to upgrade, though users of RHEL derivatives like CentOS and Oracle Linux will need to wait, along with Scientific Linux users.

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8 was released on May 7, nearly five years after the release of RHEL 7. RHEL 8, the last to be developed prior to IBM's acquisition of Red Hat, is based on Fedora 28, though RHEL has a significantly longer lifecycle than the community-focused Fedora does. Starting with RHEL 8, the full and maintenance support timelines are five years each, with extended support planned to start in 2029.

SEE: Special report: Prepare for serverless computing (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

While RHEL is practically ubiquitous, derivatives of the commercially-licensed Linux distribution have gained more popularity with SMBs, startups, and enthusiasts, as these derivatives are, typically, free. Foremost among these is CentOS, while organizations dependent on Oracle software are likely to be using Oracle Linux, and research laboratories often deploy the Scientific Linux distribution. All of these are fundamentally RHEL, though with targeted customizations for each use case. Updating these distributions is also a substantive undertaking, as they are not quite ready for a simultaneous release with RHEL 8.


CentOS is effectively just RHEL, debranded, though the infrastructure needed to build this from source is developed independently.

"A CentOS major release takes a lot of planning and changes in tooling as it is based on a much newer version of Fedora than previous versions," according to the CentOS Wiki page outlining the build process. "This means that everything from the installer, packages, packaging, and build systems need major overhauls to work with the newer OS. This means that there is always a ramp up period depending on the changes needed to make a rebuild work."

For the curious, the Wiki notes that the debranding process is more complex than it appears, noting specifically that "you can't just "sed s'/Red Hat/CentOS/'," adding that "someone always offers that."

So far, the source code has been pushed to the CentOS Git repository, and the build system is set up. However, the code is still being evaluated, the debranding patches are still being added, new artwork is still being selected, and the first build loop isn't yet complete, with the Wiki page noting that inquiring about the process is akin to "[asking] the people trying to build the train when it will arrive."

The answer to when it will be ready, to borrow from an old USENET joke, is Soon™.

Oracle Linux

Oracle is moving slightly more rapidly, as the first public beta was released on May 1. The initial beta does not include the "Oracle Unbreakable Kernel," though this is expected in future releases.

Of note, Oracle Linux is likely to continue support for btrfs, though this filesystem was removed from RHEL 8.

Scientific Linux

Scientific Linux will not be releasing a variant for RHEL 8. The distribution, which resulted from the combined efforts of Fermi Linux and CERN Linux--both of which were Red Hat-based distributions--has grown a little too long in the tooth. CERN began migrating to CentOS in 2015, following the creation of an alliance between CentOS and Red Hat, leaving Fermilab as the primary sponsor.

Fermilab is committed to maintaining Scientific Linux 6 and 7 "through the remainder of their respective lifecycles," however.

Where do we go from here?

Desktop users, particularly for personal systems, may be better served by the recently-released Fedora 30 than RHEL 8. For those considering migrating their existing RHEL 7 systems, note that KDE support in RHEL has ended. RHEL 7 shipped with (the oft-maligned) KDE 4, which has since reached end of life. Red Hat is not offering KDE Plasma 5, and there is no supported upgrade path from KDE on RHEL 7 to GNOME on RHEL 8.

For more, check out "Red Hat Universal Base Image: RHEL containers for everyone" and "Alpine Linux Docker images ship a root account with no password."

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Image: iStockphoto/monsitj