What Is The Relationship Between CentOS, RHEL, and Fedora?

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Thanks a Lot to Nicky Helmkamp from InterWorx for contribution to All Linux User’s Blog.

This article submitted by Nicky Helmkamp using http://www.tejasbarot.com/submit-an-article/ . 

While there are a large number of RPM-based distributions available, three are more prominent than the others and are more likely to be considered for server operating systems: CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Fedora. Each of these operating systems is related to the others and they are in many ways similar, but the differences between them are worth understanding if you want to choose the most reliable and secure option for your web server.
We’re going to have a quick look at how each of these distributions came into being, what their intended use cases are, and whether they are a good choice for a server operating system.

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Fedora is a community-supported distribution owned by Red Hat, one of the most successful of the enterprise-focused open source software companies.
Fedora is important because it is the upstream distribution for both CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. However, Fedora is significantly different from both of its downstream offspring, because, while it is a fully functional operating system and certainly can be used as either a server or a desktop system, one of its major purposes is as a testbed for future versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
For server operating systems, stability and predictability are important. Because Fedora includes cutting-edge largely untested software and because it has a very short development and support cycle, it tends to change significantly and frequently. Fedora usually has a new major update every 6 months and each release is supported for a maximum of 18 months. It is a great desktop operating system, because users get the newest software versions soon after they are released, but its volatility causes it to be less suitable for enterprise applications and servers. For those developing enterprise applications, Fedora’s constantly shifting APIs and short lifespan make it less than ideal.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux

RHEL is Red Hat’s official distribution, and all of the Red Hat support services, service level agreements, and certification programs are based on it. RHEL is intended to be an enterprise-grade, stable, and secure OS. It is much less subject to change than Fedora, with major versions having a normal support cycle length of 7 years with an option to extend that to 10 years.
Although Red Hat Enterprise Linux is open source, and all of the source code is made available by Red Hat, it is not free to use because the main reason a company would choose RHEL for their servers is because of the support services offered by Red Hat. As you might imagine, those support services are not free and cost anything from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars.
If you are looking for a stable enterprise-grade server distribution with an excellent support package and service-level agreement, RHEL is an excellent choice, but if you have prefer to buy support from a different vendor or use in-house support, CentOS is the better option.


CentOS is a binary compatible community-developed “clone” of RHEL. It’s basically Red Hat Enterprise Linux without the support services and branding and with some very minor configuration differences. CentOS is more or less a free drop-in replacement for RHEL.
CentOS also comes with the same long support lifecycles as RHEL, with the most recent version, CentOS 6, being supported up until the end of 2020.
CentOS does tend to lag a little behind RHEL with releases: for minor releases that may be hours or days and for major releases it can be several months, but for companies that think in terms of multiple year lifespans for their servers and software, the difference is trivial.
Which Should You Choose?
If you don’t care about long-term support and stability, Fedora is a perfectly fine option. If that is an issue and you also want to use Red Hat’s support services, then RHEL is your best bet. If you need an enterprise-grade platform that will be supported for many years without the cost of Red Hat’s support packages, then CentOS is the best option.

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