The Top 10 Linux Server Distributions

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted Aug 26, 2010


You know that Linux is a hot data center server. You know that it saves you money in licensing and maintenance costs. But, what are your options for Linux as a server operating system?

Rated: The Top 10 Linux server distributions by ease of use, paid support, and data center reliability.

Listed here are the top ten Linux server distributions (aka "Linux server distros") — some of which you may not be aware. The following characteristics, in no particular order, qualified a Linux server distro Linux Server Distros for inclusion in this list: Ease-of-use, available commercial support and data center reliability.

1. Ubuntu - At the top of almost every Linux-related list, the Debian-based Ubuntu is in a class by itself. Canonical's Ubuntu surpasses all other Linux server distributions — from its simple installation to its excellent hardware discovery to its world-class commercial support, Ubuntu leaves the others fumbling in the dusty distance.

2. Red Hat - Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) started out as the "little Linux company that could" and is now a major force in the quest for data center rackspace. The Linux darling of large companies throughout the world, Red Hat's innovations and non-stop support will have you coming back for more.

3. SUSE - Novell-owned SUSE Linux is stable, easy-to-maintain and offers Novell's 24x7 rapid-response support for those who don't have the time or patience for lengthy troubleshooting calls. And, Novell's consulting teams will have you meeting your SLAs and making your accountants happy to boot.

4. Mandriva - For U.S.-based executive or technical folks, Mandriva might be a bit foreign. This incredibly well-constructed Linux distribution hails from France and enjoys extreme acceptance in Europe and South America. It is, as its website claims, a worldwide Linux provider. Its name and its construction derive from the Mandrake Linux and Connectiva Linux distributions.

5. Xandros - If you prefer a Linux server distro with a Microsoft connection, Xandros is the one for you. Rumors aside, Xandros and Microsoft collaborate in what's known in technical circles as "cooperatition." This means that they compete cooperatively. To find out more about this unique perspective, check out the Xandros About page.

6. Slackware - While not generally associated with commercial distributions, Slackware maintains relationships with several companies that provide fee-based support. One of the earliest available Linux server distributions, Slackware has an extensive and faithful fan base. Its developers regularly release new versions.

7. Debian - If you're confused by Debian's inclusion here, don't be. Debian doesn't have formal commercial support but you can connect with Debian-savvy consultants around the world via their Consultants page. Debian has spawned more child distributions than any other parent Linux distribution, including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Vyatta.

8. Vyatta - Vyatta is more at home on routers and firewalls than PC-based systems, but if you want a commercially-driven distribution for those applications, Vyatta works well for your secure communications needs. Check out the free version of Vyatta Linux.

9. CentOS - It's true that CentOS isn't strictly commercial but since it's based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), you can leverage commercial support for it. CentOS has its own repositories and community support and is not the same as Fedora Linux.

10. Unbreakable Linux - Oracle's Unbreakable Linux is Red Hat Enterprise Linux with some Oracle logos and art added in. Oracle's Unbreakable Linux competes directly with Red Hat's Linux server distributions, and does so quite effectively since purchased support through Oracle is half the price of Red Hat's equivalent model.

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