The 10 Greatest Linux Server Distributions

Linux is one of the driving forces behind today's ever-growing Internet scene. In fact, over 70% of all websites run on Unix, with Linux taking over 58% of that number. Due to the multitude of functions that Linux-based distributions offer, they are also suitable for web, file and DNS servers in addition to corporate infrastructures.

To help our readers choose the best Linux server distributions, we're going to introduce you to the top 10 options that are available to you.

Ubuntu's server counterpart offers a competitive feature set that makes it suitable for a range of tasks. You can use it to start up web servers or file servers, and to activate cloud services. The high scalability of Ubuntu Server also makes it an excellent choice for emerging businesses.

As of this writing, the latest version is 21.04 and will be supported through January 2022. The current long-term support version for this Linux server distribution is 20.04 LTS. You can also choose from multiple subscription plans if you need managed services or advanced support.

Debian is one of the most influential Linux distributions in terms of stability and ease of use. Thanks to the comprehensive hardware support, servers can be started practically anywhere without any problems. In addition, the stable Debian branch offers the best security features and package upgrades to ensure continuous availability. This also makes it super easy to harden your Linux servers.

Debian offers free LTS (Long Term Stable) releases for free. These offer support for five years. Companies can also receive Extended Long Term Support (ELTS) as part of a commercial offer. This means that your business server will be supported for another five years.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a commercial operating system that offers exceptional scale and solid security. A large majority of Fortune 500 companies use it to power their IT infrastructure. Red Hat's robust subscription plans make it ideal for adopting new technologies. You can rely on Red Hat to power bare metal servers as well as virtual machines, containers and cloud solutions.

The LTS versions of this Linux server distribution offer software support for up to ten years. Red Hat also offers customers of the RHEL server as part of their standard or premium subscriptions Extended Life-Cycle Support (ELS).

CentOS is an enterprise Linux distribution developed and maintained by the open source community. CentOS is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and offers what RHEL has to offer for free. You can use CentOS to power business servers as well as desktops and workstations.

A major benefit of CentOS is that package updates are much less frequent. This makes it easier to maintain coherent servers and reduces errors related to software updates. CentOS's strong security implementations also make it difficult to get started. However, due to a recent policy change by Red Hat, support for CentOS may end earlier than expected. Consider switching to CentOS Stream if this worries you.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is a robust server operating system that focuses on stability and ease of use. All components of this server distribution are thoroughly tested prior to inclusion. This results in a safe and homogeneous system that is suitable for powering the technologies of the future.

The current LTS versions offer life cycle support for up to thirteen years. New major versions are released every three to four years, and minor versions are released annually. Overall, it is suitable for companies that require highly customizable and secure servers for production needs.

Fedora Server is a community-developed server distribution that makes it easy to use the latest software packages on your server. It has a short life cycle, roughly thirteen months for each version. However, it does offer the luxury of choosing from multiple package managers and modules. This can make future migrations of your ecosystem a lot easier.

The web-based GUI interface cockpit simplifies the server administration process for beginners. Administrators can control every aspect of their server through the user interface. In addition, the integration of the FreeIPA identity management solution supports risk assessment, mitigation and development.

OpenSUSE Leap is the stable branch of openSUSE, a community-based project promoting free and open source software (FOSS). Leap pursues a precisely defined release approach, in which new versions are introduced annually and security updates are provided in between. This strict release cycle helps plan server upgrades in advance. For this reason, many business servers run openSUSE Leap.

In addition, the YaST configuration manager simplifies server administration with its robust control panel. The Kiwi command line tool, on the other hand, helps orchestrate Linux images for corporate purposes. This allows administrators to create business appliances for bare metal servers as well as virtual machines and containers.

Oracle Linux offers a complete package for companies that require stable, RHEL-compatible Linux server distributions. Some of the key features of Oracle Linux are the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) and almost no downtime. The ICE focuses heavily on performance, stability and continuous availability.

In addition, this server distribution is suitable for up-and-coming companies due to a variety of deployment options. Oracle's cloud-first approach also helps companies move their infrastructure easily. Overall, it's a great corporate server distro.

Fedora CoreOS is a specialized distribution that allows container applications to run smoothly. It's an automatically updated operating system that makes it lucrative for powerful web apps. Fedora CoreOS’s first container approach helps organizations distribute workloads and scale faster.

CoreOS offers integrated support for Docker, Podman and OpenStack, among other containerization tools. There are three different release streams for this server distribution, with stable being the most secure for business.

Slackware Linux is an advanced server distribution that mainly focuses on stability. It is one of the oldest Linux server distributions and has extensive support for older hardware devices. In addition, Slackware offers a number of tools for starting up a web, file, and mail server.

Most administrators who have used Slackware in the past can vouch for the reliability it provides. So if you need a highly stable and efficient server distribution, Slackware might be a good choice.

Linux server distributions for companies

Linux server distributions come in different flavors. Commercial server distributions such as Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE Enterprise offer seamless management functions and professional support. While systems like Debian, CentOS and openSUSE thrive on community support for their development.

The above server distributions are suitable for corporate use. However, if all you need is something for your next open source project, there are a few developer Linux distributions that you should try out.

10 best Linux distributions for developers

Ready to start developing on an open source operating system? Here are the best Linux distributions for programming.

Continue reading

About the author

Rubaiat Hossain
(18 articles published)

Rubaiat is a CS graduate with a strong passion for open source. As well as being a Unix veteran, he's also been into network security, cryptography, and functional programming. He is an avid collector of used books and has an endless admiration for classic rock.

By Rubaiat Hossain

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