Are you trying to decide on a Linux server distro (distribution)? This article will help guide you based on the strengths of the Linux server distributions available. If you are looking for desktop advice, have a look at Choosing the Best Linux Distro for Desktop.
Best Linux Server distro
The first rule to remember when choosing a Linux server distro is that there’s really no single “best” Linux server distro. Instead, there’s a best suited Linux server distro based on “your” preferences and requirements. With that in mind, lets begin by breaking down the search for your best Linux server distro into 3 categories: 1) General, 2) Enterprise based/sponsored and 3) Commercial Enterprise Linux. (See Bold text highlights)
Last update: August 8th 2018.
Best Linux Server Distros – Quickview unsorted
Arch Linux = A rolling release distro with very detailed documentation regarding sever setup.
CentOS = is a 100% compatible rebuild of RHEL. in full compliance with Red Hat’s redistribution requirements.
Debian = 20+ years of experience with over 60,000 packages. Ubuntu LTS server is based on Debian SID.
Fedora Server = short-life cycle distro for use of the very latest software.
OpenSUSE = Focuses on creating usable open-source tools for software devs and Sysadmins.
Oracle Linux = features Oracle’s “Unbreakable Kernel” and zero downtime patching.
Red Hat Linux (RHEL) = targeted toward the commercial market with training and support.
SUSE Linux Enterprise = provides interoperability with Windows and other platforms.
Ubuntu Server = Specific server edition, extremely popular with commercial support available.
General Linux server Distros
The following are commonly used by Sysadmins who would like to get started quickly with Linux. These distros are popular on servers or desktop and are perfect for beginners and even advanced Sysadmins.
Ubuntu Server edition uses the same APT repositories as the Ubuntu Desktop Edition. The differences between them are the absence of an X Window environment in a default installation of the server edition and some changes to the installation process. Canonical offers commercial support for Ubuntu Server.
Debian comes with over 50,000 free packages available. Debian launched back in 1993 with it’s first stable release in 1996, as such, it’s incredibly stable and secure. Many other Linux distributions are Debian-based, including Ubuntu.
Arch Linux comes as a minimal base system, that can be easily turned into a server. All the popular server software is available in the official repositories and even more in the AUR. The wiki contains much detailed documentation regarding sever/software setup. It’s a rolling-release distro.
Enterprise based/sponsored Linux server distros
These distros are also open source but benefit from a relationship with commercial Linux companies. The following recommended Linux server distros are open source, enterprise based or funded by commercial Linux parent companies.
CentOS is for Sysadmins who need enterprise class operating system stability without the cost of certification and support. CentOS is a 100% compatible rebuild of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), in full compliance with Red Hat’s redistribution requirements.
OpenSUSE is an independent Linux distribution sponsored by SUSE Linux and other companies. Development is focused on creating usable open-source tools for software devs and Sysadmins. Tools and apps include YaST, Open Build Service, openQA, Snapper, Machinery, Portus and Kiwi.
Fedora Server is a Linux distribution developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and owned by Red Hat. Fedora Server is a short-life cycle distro which enables system administrators to make use of the very latest server-based technologies.
Oracle Linux is an enterprise-class Linux distribution supported by Oracle and built from source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Some of the special features of Oracle Linux include a custom-build and rigorously-tested Linux kernel called “Oracle Unbreakable Kernel”, tight integration with Oracle’s hardware and software products including most database applications, and “zero downtime patching” – a feature that enables administrators to update the kernel without a reboot.
Also check out: ClearLinux.
Commercial Enterprise Linux server distros
If you require enterprise Linux for advanced features and commercial support, these commercial distributions will be THE best to work with. Contact them by email or phone for more information.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is a Linux distribution developed by Red Hat and targeted toward the commercial market. All of Red Hat’s official support and training and the Red Hat Certification Program centers around the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform.
SUSE Linux Enterprise is an interoperable platform for mission-critical computing. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server provides interoperability with Windows and other platforms, and it provides a secure foundation for a broad range of edge, departmental and data center needs.
Other noteworthy Linux server Distros
ClearOS, CoreOS, Openwall, Scientific Linux, Turnkey Linux and Univention. If you feel I’ve missed a great option, please add it in the comments section below. Include the website link and a specific focus or advantage of that distro.
— After posting this article I also created a Google Plus Poll here.
— Some of the descriptions in this article are from Distrowatch – a very useful website which you can use in your search/research.