The release of AlmaLinux in 2021 was spurred by the change of CentOS Linux from an enterprise-stable operating system to an upstream development branch of RHEL.

With AlmaLinux being branded as a replacement for CentOS, and giving users the option to migrate to AlmaLinux from CentOS, you may be wondering what the differences are between these operating systems.

In this guide, we'll look at what makes AlmaLinux and CentOS so similar, and why new differences between the distributions are causing many to distro hop.

AlmaLinux
AlmaLinux

CentOS and CentOS Stream


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Up until a late 2020 announcement from Red Hat, CentOS was regarded as an enterprise-stable, production-ready operating system that had been cloned from Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Sure, it had a few tweaks to set it apart from RHEL, but essentially, it was RHEL without the cost of a subscription.

That was the "old" CentOS. The "new" CentOS is called CentOS Stream, and follows in Fedora's footsteps as an upstream source for RHEL. New features will be introduced into CentOS Stream, where they'll enjoy a testing period as the bugs are worked out, before the new changes are absorbed into RHEL.

This means RHEL becomes more stable, and CentOS (now CentOS Stream) becomes less stable. But what should all these businesses do that have used CentOS for years? If you ask Red Hat, the answer is probably "buy RHEL." Fortunately, the developers at Cloud Linux have stepped up to create a viable replacement for the old CentOS, which doesn't cost money - enter AlmaLinux.

CentOS
CentOS

AlmaLinux vs. the "old" CentOS



The first comparison we should draw is between AlmaLinux and the old CentOS, before it turned into CentOS Stream. The fact you're able to migrate from one system to the other should make it clear how similar they are. The reason they're so similar is because they're both based on RHEL.

AlmaLinux appeals to early adopters by trying to give CentOS users a seamless transition into the new operating system. The process of migrating will change around a lot of packages (downgrading, upgrading, installing new ones), so there may be a little clean up needed afterwards. But for the most part, the transition is smooth. And it was specifically designed to be that way.

AlmaLinux vs. CentOS Stream

The difference between AlmaLinux and CentOS Stream is when they receive new updates and features. CentOS Stream sits closer to the bleeding edge, where packages and updates are introduced. After a period of thorough testing, they're considered stable, and they trickle down to RHEL. AlmaLinux is last in line to receive the updates. By that time, they should be incredibly stable and tested.

So do you want earlier access to updates and latest features, or do you want a predictable and stable distro? The way you answer that question will determine which distro you should choose. For businesses with production servers, the choice will almost always be stability.

Closing Thoughts

In this guide, we went over a comparison of AlmaLinux vs. CentOS and CentOS Stream. Hopefully this has given you some insight into the differences between the three distros, and helped you make a choice about which Linux distribution is best for your environment.

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