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Centos vs Debian: What are the differences?

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  1. Package Management: One key difference between CentOS and Debian lies in their package management systems. CentOS uses YUM (Yellowdog Updater, Modified) as its package manager, while Debian uses APT (Advanced Package Tool). This leads to differences in package availability, repositories, and dependency handling between the two distributions.

  2. Release Cycle: Another notable difference is the release cycle of CentOS and Debian. CentOS is known for its stable and long-term support releases, predominantly based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). On the other hand, Debian has a more frequent release cycle with versions categorized as stable, testing, and unstable.

  3. Init Systems: CentOS traditionally uses SysVinit as its init system, but recent versions have adopted systemd. Debian, on the other hand, has been an early adopter of systemd as its default init system. This choice impacts how services are managed and started on the system.

  4. Community and Support: CentOS is backed by a dedicated organization (formerly by CentOS Project, now part of Red Hat) and has a strong community of users and contributors. Debian, on the other hand, is known for its large and diverse community of developers and users who contribute to its development.

  5. Philosophy and Focus: CentOS is known for its enterprise-focused approach and stability, primarily targeting server environments. Debian, on the other hand, emphasizes free and open-source software principles, with a broader focus on various use cases including desktop, server, and embedded systems.

  6. Default Package Selection: When it comes to default package selection, CentOS is more minimalistic, providing a basic set of tools and packages for a server setup. Debian, on the other hand, offers a more comprehensive range of packages by default, catering to various user needs.

In Summary, CentOS and Debian differ in package management, release cycle, init systems, community support, focus areas, and default package selection.

Decisions about CentOS and Debian
Dimelo Waterson

Coming from a Debian-based Linux background, using the Ubuntu base image for my Docker containers was a natural choice. However, the overhead, even on the impressively-slimmed Hub images, was hard to justify. Seeking to create images that were "just right" in size, without unused packages or dependencies, I made the switch to Alpine.

Alpine's modified BusyBox has a surprising amount of functionality, and the package repository contains plenty of muslc-safe versions of commonly-used packages. It's been a valuable exercise in doing more with less, and, as Alpine is keen to point out, an image with fewer packages makes for a more sustainable environment with a smaller attack surface.

My only regret is that Alpine's documentation leaves a lot to be desired.

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Michael Fogassy

I have used libvirt in every Linux hypervisor deployment I do. I frequently deploy RHEL or CentOS hypervisor servers with libvirt as the VMM of choice. It's installable via the guided setup for EL-based Linux distros, it uses minimal resources and overhead, integrates seamlessly with KVM and Qemu, and provides powerful CLI for advanced users and experts looking for automated deployments, or via VirtManager in your favorite Linux desktop environment. Best used with Linux VMs, it allows KVM and QEMU direct hardware virtualization access.

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Jaron Viëtor

Using Arch Linux for our systems and servers means getting the latest technology and fixes early, as well as early warnings for potential future breakage in other (slower) distributions. It's been easy to maintain, easy to automate, and most importantly: easy to debug.

While our software target is every recent Linux distribution, using Arch internally ensured that everyone understands the full system without any knowledge gaps.

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Jerome/Zen Quah

Global familiarity, free, widely used, and as a debian distro feels more comfortable when rapidly switching between local macOS and remote command lines.

CentOS does boast quite a few security/stability improvements, however as a RHEL-based distro, differs quite significantly in the command line and suffers from slightly less frequent package updates. (Could be a good or bad thing depending on your use-case and if it is public facing)

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Pros of CentOS
Pros of Debian
  • 16
  • 9
    Free to use
  • 9
  • 6
    Has epel packages
  • 6
    Good support
  • 5
    Great Community
  • 2
    I've moved from gentoo to centos
  • 54
    Massively supported
  • 50
  • 21
  • 9
  • 8
  • 8
    It is free
  • 8
    Turnkey linux use it
  • 6
    Works on all architectures

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Cons of CentOS
Cons of Debian
  • 1
    Yum is a horrible package manager
  • 10
    Old versions of software
  • 2
    Can be difficult to set up on vanilla Debian

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What is CentOS?

The CentOS Project is a community-driven free software effort focused on delivering a robust open source ecosystem. For users, we offer a consistent manageable platform that suits a wide variety of deployments. For open source communities, we offer a solid, predictable base to build upon, along with extensive resources to build, test, release, and maintain their code.

What is Debian?

Debian systems currently use the Linux kernel or the FreeBSD kernel. Linux is a piece of software started by Linus Torvalds and supported by thousands of programmers worldwide. FreeBSD is an operating system including a kernel and other software.

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What companies use CentOS?
What companies use Debian?
See which teams inside your own company are using CentOS or Debian.
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Blog Posts

What are some alternatives to CentOS and Debian?
Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. The Ubuntu operating system brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the world of computers.
Fedora is a Linux-based operating system that provides users with access to the latest free and open source software, in a stable, secure and easy to manage form. Fedora is the largest of many free software creations of the Fedora Project. Because of its predominance, the word "Fedora" is often used interchangeably to mean both the Fedora Project and the Fedora operating system.
Amazon Linux
The Amazon Linux AMI is a supported and maintained Linux image provided by Amazon Web Services for use on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).
The openSUSE project is a worldwide effort that promotes the use of Linux everywhere. openSUSE creates one of the world's best Linux distributions, working together in an open, transparent and friendly manner as part of the worldwide Free and Open Source Software community.
A clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification compliance.
See all alternatives