Difference between CentOS, Fedora, and RHEL

Difference between CentOS, Fedora, and RHEL

The biggest open source company is nowadays Red Hat. It is known for its contributions to many open source projects, including the Linux kernel itself. Less known is that Red Hat is involved in different Linux distributions, directly or indirectly.


Fedora has received many updates and individual releases over the years. It is a playground for new functionality. Often new technology is found here. It can be compared with other distributions like Arch Linux, except that it is slightly less aggressive in deploying the latest software components for everything.

  • Community driven
  • Short release cycles (6 months)
  • Focus on features and new technology
  • Common on desktop

The difference between Fedora and other distributions is the corporate support by Red Hat. That means that professional developers can work on projects that are first tested in Fedora. A lot of these components may then also be picked up by other distributions. It also feeds the RHEL product. Everything that is considered to be stable and useful for demanding enterprises, might be moved in phases towards the RHEL distribution.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

The Enterprise product of Red Hat is named RHEL for short. The main difference with Fedora is that is focused on companies which prefer stability. The most business-critical services are deployed on this platform. Battle-tested components might finally end up in this distribution.

  • Focus on stability
  • Supported by Red Hat
  • Paid license
  • Common on server

For companies relying on the stability of a Linux distribution, might want to go for this distribution. It is also common to see a split: some systems runs RHEL, less business-critical systems run CentOS.


CentOS is a spinoff of RHEL. It is based on the same code base. It has recompiled all the source packages in it, making it effectively a very similar system. CentOS great if you like the stability of RHEL and want to reduce your costs.

  • Based on RHEL
  • Community driven
  • Focus on stability
  • Free

This option might be less suitable for business-critical services as it isn’t officially supported by Red Hat. Also if you prefer recent software packages, CentOS (like RHEL) might not always be the best option.

Got some other clear differences? Let it know it in the comments.

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Lynis Enterprise screenshot to help with system hardening

This blog post is part of our Linux security series and the mission to get Linux and Unix-based systems more secure.

Does system hardening take a lot of time, or do you have any compliance in your company? Have a look at Lynis Enterprise.

Or start today with the open source security scanner Lynis (GitHub)

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