As of June 2023, enterprises in Nigeria have less than a year to plan and execute their migration paths from CentOS Linux 7. Updates for the open source project will end on 30 June, 2024 as it reaches its end of life. The project comprises two Linux variants: CentOS Linux, a platform built for a wide variety of deployments; and CentOS Stream, a delivered distribution that tracks just ahead of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) development and is positioned as a midstream between Fedora Linux and RHEL.
This may seem daunting for businesses that rely on CentOS Linux 7 as the foundation for their enterprise IT infrastructure. End-of-life cycles present a challenge for organisations as they require planning and preparation. But it doesn’t have to mean the end of the world, not when enterprises can leverage the power of open source.
The journey of CentOS and life cycles
As the preferred Linux distribution in the hosting industry for many years, CentOS offered enterprises several advantages. The most notable being multiple built-in security features such as Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux). As an access control mechanism that enforces rules based on pre-defined policies, SELinux helps reduce vulnerabilities that threat actors may exploit. CentOS also offers extended support. Major versions are supported for 10 years, and because of that, applications that run on it do not need to be updated as often.
What makes CentOS 7 and its life cycle so relevant is it coinciding with Nigeria’s overall digital transformation journey and the growth of the information, communications, and technology sector. In 2020, the sector contributed 15% to GDP, continuing a trend seen over the previous five years where the sector grew at a rate of 18% between 2016 and 2019.
Today, every industry sees the value of investing in IT infrastructure and making IT a core component of business, which in turn dictates investments in software, platforms, and digital products. This digital ecosystem needs to be powered by something, and many enterprises are looking for something that offers maximum flexibility, scalability, and cost effectiveness.
For many businesses in Nigeria, CentOS offered all those benefits. But in the face of CentOS 7 Linux going end-of-life, many people I’ve encountered are now wondering what the next steps are. And let me be clear, a commitment to open source is still the direction to take.
Default to open source
CentOS has long been a definitive example of why organisations should adopt a “default to open source” mentality, using open source solutions to fulfil business needs, especially in the face of growing hybrid cloud infrastructure.
Typically, open source solutions are more cost effective than proprietary ones. They allow organisations to start small and expand based on their business requirements, and they enable them to work quickly, starting with a community version to solve a business problem and achieving value almost immediately.
Open source has a solid security track record, especially when it comes to commercial distributions. Developers and vendors who have spent years working on the platform are ideally placed to identify vulnerabilities and then roll out updates. Compare this to a proprietary environment, where few may be aware of said vulnerabilities.
As we see today in mobile solutions with Android, it is highly likely future system architectures will be based on open source, and powered by cloud computing services, microservices, and containerisation. That means the platforms, wherever they’re obtained, are a positive long-term investment. As more enterprises use enterprise IT, the approach they take now will determine where new technologies will take them in the future.
Migrating with ease
Organisations can obtain software from community-based (unpaid) distributions or vendor-based, paid, commercial-grade ones that offer maintenance and additional support services. Enterprises may be tempted by the idea of going it alone and saving a bit of money in the short term. But paid solutions can bring efficiencies that achieve higher value over the long term, as well as maximise overall costs compared to unpaid solutions.
For enterprises that cannot complete their planned migrations before June 30, 2024, there are solutions. For example, for organisations running RHEL 7, Red Hat offers a four-year Extended Life Cycle Support (ELS) maintenance period, which gives organisations some breathing room and an opportunity to finish formulating their long-term infrastructure strategy. Those who are still running CentOS Linux are encouraged to migrate to RHEL. Because CentOS Linux was derived from RHEL sources, users can continue to use many of the techniques and elements they’re familiar with.
Migrating away from CentOS Linux is not a process Nigerian enterprises need to fear. Instead, they should view it as the next chapter of their enterprise IT journey. By working with open source vendors and collaborators, they can turn the page seamlessly and ready themselves for the future.
By Oluwafiropo Tobi Ogundare, Territory Sales Lead for Red Hat Mauritius & West Africa