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CentOS users remain faithful despite developer shakeup

CentOS users shake off concerns sparked by the reclusive ways of a key CentOS figure and say the OS is poised to move on with or without Lane Davis.

Administrators using CentOS, the free open source operating system built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, remain confident about the long-term stability of the OS, despite a recent shakeup prompted by the seeming disappearance of a CentOS administrator and co-founder.

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Centos developers posted an open letter on July 30, 2009, pleading with the project's primary administrator and co-founder, Lance Davis, who held the domain plus sole founder's rights in the Internet Relay Chat channels, to respond to other developers, who said they had not been able to reach him.

Less than a week later, the Centos development team met with Davis and posted a note assuring the community that there will be no impact to any CentOS users moving forward. It appears that promise is enough for several CentOS administrators.

As stable as Red Hat -- and free
CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), for example, are the official Linux distributions used at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Joshua Glemza, an application programmer and system administrator for the organization, said the recent drama hasn't shaken his faith in Centos.

"Initially I was concerned. However … it appears that the issues have been ironed out," Glemza said. "We're very happy with CentOS. We've been using it in our production environment for years. It's like RHEL: stable but free."

R.I. Pienaar, a system administrator and consultant who builds and supports startup companies in London, said he feels positive that CentOS community issues have been sorted out.

"Lance has not been part of the project for ages, and this [move represents the CentOS community] formally rebranding the project with an eye on continuing it," he said. "Now that their dirty dishwater is public, they have an onus to sort it out."

Pienaar added that the CentOS community is restructuring to resolve any concerns users have about the project's viability.

The structure changes include who runs the domains and how donations are collected. The CentOS Project now owns the and domains, and the CentOS Project will be run completely by volunteers, according to the CentOS community website.

Bob Plankers, a system administrator and blogger who uses CentOS for a few "side projects," said the open letter had the intended effect, and the project is on the right path now.

"The project owns the domains, has access to the funding and donations, and they are sorting out volunteer issues. That is good," Plankers said.

Red Hat as CentOS safety net
At the same time, it is important for users of these distributions to realize that they are freely available because people volunteer their time and effort to the project, Plankers said. "Volunteers may disappear, whole projects may disappear, especially if people, schools, and corporations take without giving back," he said.

[CentOS] is like RHEL: stable but free.
Joshua Glemza,
system administratorNASA Glenn Research Center

That said, if CentOS were to dissolve, users can easily move to RHEL, Pienaar said.

"CentOS is binary-compatible with Red Hat, so my clients who use [these OSes] -- should it all go south -- there's a clear and supported upgrade path to the paid version," Pienaar said. "That makes the risk much smaller for me, and it's exactly why I promote using CentOS to startups. It gets them built at good cost, but they have the option to go 'enterprise' when needed either through an event like this or through investor demand and so forth."

Plankers concurred. "The good thing is that because CentOS is just a re-labeled Red Hat Enterprise Linux it's pretty easy to move to Red Hat's offerings if CentOS goes under. I don't think there's any need to worry now, though."

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