Karanbir Singh (KS) of CentOS was interviewed last November 2010 by Randal Schwartz (RS) and Dan Lynch (DL) on the "FLOSS Weekly" radio program. Here was an interesting portion of the interview.
RS: Give us the top-level view of what CentOS is all about?
KS: So, it's quite a long story, but in a short one-minute setup what happened was that a few years back, Red Hat decided to change their enterprise Linux strategy, and they brought in a subscription model for the product they were going to support. What they also did was left the sources for that product available to the public should anybody want to use it.
What CentOS does is we take those sources and build the distribution with those sources to be as close to the Red Hat offering as possible -- as binary compatible, as ABI-compliant, as API-compliant -- with the only difference being things look different because they have branding in it and you don't get any support. [...]
DL: Is it a good working relationship that you have with Red Hat?
KB: That's a good question. The perspective varies depending on who you speak to. From our end at CentOS, we think we have a very good relationship with Red Hat in that we don't actually have a direct relationship with Red Hat. The components that we are consuming and that Red Hat are putting out they are making available to anybody and everybody, so it could be CentOS it could be Joe Blow.
From the Red Hat side of things, it gets slightly more interesting -- this is of course my personal opinion, not Red Hat opinion -- I feel that Red Hat engineering and Red Hat technical are quite happy with what we're doing because it's not really a one-way street. We take the sources and build a distribution around it, build a platform around it, but what we also do is we file a lot of feature requests, we file patches, we file bug reports. We work with some of their engineering teams to try and solve problems that users are having out in the open. We feel they are happy with us. If you shift the focus a bit and look at Red Hat sales and marketing they're not really that happy with what's happening with CentOS. The one message I try to get across to them is that if there are X number of users using CentOS, then there are X users using the Red Hat platform. [...]
There's some concern that CentOS 6 isn't released even though RHEL 6 has been available for a year, so there must be a crisis or viability issue with CentOS. However, updating CentOS after a major release of RHEL is non-trivial. If folks want a version of CentOS 6 sooner, then there should be resources offered to make that happen. Otherwise, buy a support subscription of RHEL 6 from Red Hat. I hear it's compatible with the unreleased CentOS 6.
CentOS is important for the free software community since it is an affordable, commercially-developed GNU/Linux distribution. It's also important because it is material proof that a commercially-developed GNU/Linux distribution, Red Hat in this case, can be built from source independently and distributed by a third-party -- commercial or community. CentOS deserves thanks for that as well.