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CentOS 7

CentOS Linux originated in 2004 as a community-maintained derivative of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

The goal in deriving a new distribution was to offer a freely available, open source version of RHEL, which was previously available only to Red Hat customers purchasing a support plan. For ten years after its release CentOS continued to develop and gain widespread use, while competing with Red Hat’s own free distribution, Fedora. The hard work of the CentOS community paid off in 2014 when Red Hat officially sponsored CentOS and purchased many of their trademarks. Following this announcement CentOS release 7 was unveiled in October 2014.

LCSEE Systems uses CentOS to provide a variety of services to students. The most prominent is shell access to CentOS servers hosting proprietary software. This software is used heavily by engineering departments and industry, and includes MATLAB, Cadence, and Synopsys. There are four servers, referred to as LCSEE proprietary shell servers, executing CentOS release 6.

CentOS is well-supported by this class of software, as many companies releasing proprietary software support

Red Hat-based operating systems natively. For example, the popular power supply manufacturer APC lists Red Hat based distributions as officially supported for its power supply management software Powerchute. CentOS release 6 is supported for ten years from the date of release, providing a relatively long life cycle compared to other distributions, favorable to technology companies desiring long-term planning.

Since the mid-2000’s, LCSEE Systems has provided laboratories for students in entry-level computer science classes using a single Linux distribution: Ubuntu Linux. However, Ubuntu is not the only distribution suitable for entry-level programming. Students are free to explore the vast realm of Linux distributions, such as Fedora, Debian, and Kali. Each system is distinct from Ubuntu in various ways:

  • Fedora: Versus CentOS, Fedora focuses on upstream development rather than providing a perfect mirror of RHEL. At two years, the support cycle for Fedora is relatively short in order to keep pace with bleeding edge software updates.
  • Debian: Over 21 years old, Debian is by far the oldest Linux distribution in widespread use, and has spawned many derivative distributions such as Ubuntu and Mint.
  • Kali: This distribution provides an environment with tools useful for users interested in information security and penetration testing.

CentOS 7 is a valuable tool to learn for any IT professional interested in Linux. The clean and open feel of the desktop is a welcome change to the banal look past Linux distributions have thrived on. The Unity desktop environment used by Ubuntu has been replaced by the GNOME 3 interface of CentOS 7. Clean lines and a sleek, trendy color scheme gives the display a truly modern feel. A purely exquisite, upscale look is embodied by the icons, fonts, and even the desktop calendar. As for software availability, the repositories for RHEL systems are as complete as Debian-based systems, especially with the addition of Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL). Overall, the learning curve is minimal and new users should grow accustomed to changes quickly. First-hand experience is by far the best approach to learning more about the unique entity that is CentOS 7. Download a free image of CentOS 7 and explore.

Contributors: Alan Fluder, Terry Ferrett, Marc Seery