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CentOS did mainstream yum before RH did (though this is now included in RHEL5). In general, CentOS tries to hew very closely to RHEL while adding a few pieces which have made system management very much easier (RHN is a PITA, and raw 'rpm' should have died or been subsumed by more powerful tools ten years ago), and allowed for integration of third-party packages within the CentOS yum repos. To this extent, CentOS is somewhat more responsive to end-user needs than RH has shown themselves to be.
What CentOS also accomplishes, however, is to commoditize Red Hat's Linux offerings. In much the way RH sought to commoditize Sun's Unix offerings. Oddly enough, Sun is among the sponsors of CentOS. Go figure.
In my own recommendations to management, I suggest that if you're going to go with a RH-like system, you may as well go with RH, because you're ultimately shooting the value proposition in the foot (to mangle metaphors) by cutting off its air supply. Which isn't to say I generally recommend RH: while it offers VAR and third-party ISP endorsements (the principle value), actual support has been<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... wanting (a fact RH has shown painfully increased awareness of lately). The growth of ABRH (anything but RH) deployments many locations, whether Fedora, CentOS, Suse, or increasingly Debian/Ubuntu, has been significant over the past several years. While RH still appears to have legs, the company has played very close to the line of providing useful service and annoying the hell out of its customer base and in particular technical evangelists.
For those wedded to a commercial RPM-based distro, Novell's Suse exists. I vastly prefer Debian or Ubuntu in both server and desktop roles, and generally recommend either over RH/Suse for a host of reasons which largely culminate in "more power, less pain".
User-responsiveness and policy will get you a long way.
Karsten M. Self
Return to CentOS 5 is a solid enterprise OS