First released in 2003, Fedora is often considered to be the mother of the RPM family of Linux distributions. It focuses on providing leading open source technologies and is famous for its refusal to include any proprietary software in its official repositories.
The insistence on including only open source software makes Fedora a very pure Linux distribution and a perfect parent distribution. Fedora’s purity and cutting-edge nature have convinced well over 1 million users from around the world, including Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, to use it as their distribution of choice, both on personal computers and on servers.
The development of Fedora is largely driven by the community, but it’s also sponsored by Red Hat, which uses Fedora as a testing ground for many of the features that eventually make it to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, a Linux distribution developed by Red Hat and targeted toward the commercial market.
CentOS, short for Community Enterprise Operating System, is an enterprise-grade Linux distribution that’s fully compatible with its upstream source, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It was first released in 2004, and it essentially allows anyone to use the Red Hat Enterprise Linux codebase, which is only available only through a paid subscription service or for development use in a non-production environment, for commercial purposes.
Red Hat is well-aware of the existence of CentOS, and it even employs most of the CentOS head developers. Red Hat argues that the existence of CentOS is beneficial for the whole open source community because it helps drive forward development and adoption of next-generation open source technologies.
CentOS is also a great advertisement for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, allowing small and medium-sized companies to evaluate the benefits of open source software for free. Many companies soon realize that open source software is the right way to go for them, but they switch to Red Hat Enterprise Linux to receive commercial support from Red Hat.
Because Fedora primarily targets workstations and individual home users, its release and support cycles are relatively short. A new version is typically released every six months, and it’s supported only until 1 month after version X+2 is released. In other words, most versions of Fedora are only supported for 13 months. The good news is that Fedora users can upgrade to a new version without reinstalling.
The CentOS release schedule closely follows Red Hat Enterprise Linux. For example, CentOS version 7.5 is built from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 update 5. While previous versions of CentOS have been supported for seven years, all versions newer than CentOS 5 will be maintained for up to 10 years, which corresponds to the support cycle of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Fedora provides two distinct installation images: Live and Netinstall. The former allows you to demonstrate features or try out a release before hard disk/SSD installation. The latter includes only basic packages, allowing you to download everything else from the official repositories during installation.
CentOS provides three different installation media: DVD, Everything, and Minimal. The CentOS DVD ISO is small enough to fit on a single DVD, but it includes everything you might need to set up a fully functional server. The CentOS Everything ISO is a complete package with all software packages, including ones that cannot be selected for installation from the GUI installer. Finally, the CentOS Minimal ISO is the same as Fedora’s Netinstall image.
Both Fedora and CentOS use the RPM package management system and come with a wide range of software applications. Other applications can be installed from third-party repositories.
Fedora and CentOS have a lot in common, but each of these two popular distributions of Linux targets a slightly different audience. Fedora is great for open source enthusiasts who don’t mind frequent updates and the unstable nature of cutting-edge software. CentOS, on the other hand, offers a very long support cycle, making it fit for the enterprise.