What Linux OS server distribution is most popular for Web app companies?
Determining the most popular Linux options depends a bit on what you would call a Web app company. If we interpret that as a company that offers applications that are accessed on the Web, such as email, online customer relationship management and many more applications that are offered through the cloud, then it really depends on what the companies are looking for.
If the company is a startup, I often see it using one of the basic open source Linux distributions, such as Fedora, OpenSUSE or Ubuntu Server. In that stage of development of the company, it doesn't think too much about the underlying operating system; it just wants something that sounds like a decent Linux distribution. Ubuntu Server is often seen in these environments. When these companies start to grow, then they begin to think about such items as support, and that changes their perspective.
Once a company has many customers that actually depend on the application -- and are paying for it and have expectations about availability -- it often switches to one of the common players in the enterprise data center, such as Red Hat, SUSE or CentOS. The choice of Red Hat is obvious: It is the current market leader, and that builds trust. Red Hat offers good support solutions as well. SUSE is not the market leader, but like Red Hat, it offers commercial support as well.
Then there are companies that want the reliability of Red Hat without having to pay for it, and those companies are using CentOS. It's interesting to see how typical open source platforms suddenly fade from a company once they've gotten bigger.
This was first published in April 2013