Best Linux distributions for server, these are my favorite

In 1991 Linus Torvalds released Linux as an open-source technology and it took the world by storm. Today Linux is no stranger to any IT professional and its importance is un-challengable.

Linux being open source means that anyone can view, edit and change source code. They can also create new Linux distributions or contribute to existing ones. Linux’s permissive license enables large-scale distribution and modification.

Linux is for everyone! The Kernel is so customizable that it perfectly fits almost any need. Linux kernel can be used in networks, software development, supercomputers, personal desktops, and much more.

Every version of Android is a fork of Linux. Chrome and Chromiuim OS used by google chrome book are also derivatives of Linux 🙂

IT professionals find Linux a crucial part of technology and it is quite important to learn it.

Linux distributions or distros come in different flavors just like icecreams. Package management, configuration management, kernel version, and distribution support are some of the factors that make each distribution unique.

In this post, I’ll be discussing some of my favorite Linux distributions. Without going into the hard-core technical stuff, let’s discuss some of the in-demand Linux distros.

Slackware, Debian, and Redhat are the starting points of many of the major Linux distributions.

For a comprehensive view of the Linux distributions, view the tree here.

Debian

Debian is one of the longest-running Linux distributions. It is stable and widely supported. Debian also serves as an upstream for many popular derivatives of it.

Some popular derivatives of Debian include Ubuntu, Mint, Kali, Raspbian, and more. The derivatives of Debian inherit the same skills that are developed with Debian.

One of the primary distinguishing features of Debian is that it uses ‘apt’ to search, install and manage software. Thus, with apt, it is fairly simple to search, modify packages.

DEBIAN releases are frequent,  and it announces its new stable release on a regular basis.

What makes Debian releases interesting is their naming convention.

The releases are named after toy story characters. Interestingly, an unstable release is always be called Sid (actually makes sense 😀 )

The current stable release is Debian 10 (buster).

Debian releases moves from ‘unstable’ →  ‘testing’  → ‘stable

There is one surprising fact about privilege management. Debian doesn’t have ‘sudo‘ by default. However, ‘sudo‘ configuration and installation are very easy using ‘apt’.

Let’s summarise Debian.

  • Debian is available for both- enterprise and personal use.
  • Debian stable releases are frequent.
  • Users can expect 3 years of full support for each release.
  • Ubuntu, Mint, Kali, Raspbian are derivatives of Debian.
  • Debian can easily be used in virtual machines on the desktop or in a container.
  •  Debian is a popular choice for servers.

Ubuntu

Not to mention, Ubuntu has always been the most recommended and widely used Linux distro for beginners. Surprisingly, most of its targeted audience mostly comes from ex-window users. Moreover, the interface of Ubuntu is very clean, simple, and easy to use. Installation is also fairly easy.

As Ubuntu is a Debian derivative, it uses apt which is a very robust package manager. Apt is also fully compatible working with .deb packages. Above all, the feature that makes Ubuntu special is its stability.

Apt does not automatically update packages. Thus, we have more control over updates and this also makes Ubuntu more stable. Besides, apt requires an additional command for updating all the software manually. Additionally, this is very useful for environments that do not need to change frequently. An example is the production environment.

  • Ubuntu is free and user-friendly.
  • Apt PM makes Ubuntu very stable.
  • Ubuntu has 2 versions, LTS, and non-LTS.
  • A new Ubuntu LTS version releases after every two years and is supported for five years.
  •  Non-LTS is released every six months, and each update is supported for 15 months only.

The Red Hat Family

Fedora, RedHat Enterprise Linux, and Centos come under the hood of Red Hat inc.

Feature rollout is in the following order:

Fedora  →  CentOS Stream → RHEL

Fedora

RedHat Release cycle
RedHat Release cycle

Fedora is a community-driven distro of RHEL and it encompasses active changes. Fedora is more like a testing ground for RHEL. Features mature in Fedora and then passed to CentOS Stream. Some features may take years to make it to RHEL. Fedora gives RHEL enthusiasts visibility in what lies ahead.

RHEL

Red Hat inc developed Redhat enterprise Linux for commercial use. It follows a subscription model and companies purchase a license for use.

The license covers excellent, always ready support from experts. Paid support is always one hand above the voluntary support as trained specifically for handling client issues.

CentOS

Recently, CentOS announced the discontinuity of Centos by 2021.

Is CentOS dead? 🙁 It would be very harsh to say that CentOS is dead. Contrary to this belief, Rocky Linux is the new CentOS. Prior to the current rollout steps, the sequence was as follows:

Fedora  →  RHEL  →  CentOS  [obsolete flow]

Now, CentOS Stream receives the rollouts from Fedora. Thus, it is one step ahead of RHEL. Also, everything learned from CentOS also transfers to CentOS. To add further, the process to switch from CentOS to CentOS stream is also easy.

Rocky Linux

Following the discontinuation of CentOS, the co-founder of CentOS launched Rocky Linux. Rocky is a new community-based distro based on Redhat. It is very similar to CentOS.

Some key takeaways from RedHat Family are below:

  • RHEL offers excellent premium support.
  • CentOS and Fedora offer a good, free replacement to RHEL for learning purposes.
  • CentOS is not technically dead.
  • Fedora now uses .dnf packages that are fully compatible with .rpm and faster than yum.
  • Rocky Linux is a new alternative to CentOS.
  • Anyone who has worked on CentOS can easily work on CentOS stream.
  • RedHat Developer subscription is a free alternate to RHEL which supports up to 16 VM installations.

So, which distro is the best?

To be honest, there is no definite answer 🙂 It entirely depends on the problem you are trying to solve.

Servers run headless and thus do not require desktop configuration. This also saves system resources. In that case, you can consider lightweight options like Ubuntu server or Debian.

For learning purposes, the safest option is to start with Ubuntu. However, most tutorials are centered around Debian, Ubuntu, or the RedHat family due to their popularity.

In the end, the ultimate decision is centered around the release frequency, GUI availability, or the support cost.

With numerous distros out there, I am sure you would be able to find the best version that suits your needs.

If you are keen on the latest Linux trends and tutorials, check the Linux Blog page.

Do let me know which is your favorite distro in the comments 🙂

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Zaira! I’m an IT professional with diverse experience in Linux-based application management. I keep applications up and running for businesses. I’m currently exploring cloud technologies. My message is simple and straightforward: ‘Always keep exploring and learning. IT is beautiful and almost like magic, you’ll never get bored and always find something surprising. So, keep learning 😊.

If you need any tech-related help, you can connect here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zaira-hira/

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