Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu are easily two of the most popular Linux distributions used in the enterprise. Even so, there are some key differences between these two Linux flavors. Features, user experience, licensing and documentation are the key components to evaluate when comparing Linux distributions.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) can support nearly any application server or infrastructure role. In its latest version, Red Hat seems to focus heavily on security and compliance. The company has introduced systemwide cryptographic policies, advanced auditing capabilities and updated protocols. These include Transport Layer Security, IPsec, Domain Name System Security Extensions and Kerberos.
Red Hat has also reduced the complexity of RHEL's latest version. RHEL 8 is designed to provide a consistent user experience by using the same administrative tools, regardless of whether the server is running in the cloud, in a VM or on a bare-metal server
Ubuntu is an all-purpose server and provides services such as authentication, domain name server and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. Ubuntu can also be configured as a web server, a MySQL or PostgreSQL database server, a file server, a chat server or an email server.
Ubuntu also offers next-generation features, including quality-of-service controls for CPU, memory and storage, and install snaps, which allow admins to easily install applications.
Canonical, the company that offers Ubuntu services and management, is the top provider of managed OpenStack. As such, Ubuntu is a good choice for organizations that want to run OpenStack.
Red Hat supports RHEL on several different architectures. The company's dominant architecture is x86 but has versions of RHEL for IBM Power systems and for IBM System z. The company also has a development preview of a version of RHEL designed to run on the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture.
Ubuntu is also available for several setups. While x86 support is a given, Ubuntu is also available for Arm, IBM Power Systems and IBM System z.
Ease of use
When comparing Linux distributions, ease of use is an important consideration. Red Hat seems to have made a significant effort to improve the overall usability in RHEL 8.
In this release, Red Hat introduced a new web-based management console that simplifies various server management and monitoring tasks. RHEL 8 also includes Red Hat Insights, which is designed to detect and help remediate any internal that might occur on a server.
Ubuntu has a reputation for being one of the easiest Linux distributions to learn. Ubuntu is simple to install and features an intuitive GUI interface that's easier to use than the command-line interface. Ubuntu Linux automatically installs any required device drivers. Ubuntu also offers an extensive community to answer questions.
Red Hat sells eight different license types that organizations can directly purchase from the Red Hat website. The least expensive option is a Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server license, which sells at $349 for a single RHEL instance. The most expensive option is Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server for IBM System z, which sells for $15,000 per instance.
Ubuntu doesn't charge a licensing fee for its Linux distribution, but Canonical does offer a security and patching service called Ubuntu Advantage. This service costs $225 per year for servers, or $75 per year for VMs. A desktop version of the support plan is available for $25 per year.
Another significant consideration when comparing Linux distributions is documentation. Red Hat provides online documentation in HTML, ePub and PDF format and has an entire training and certification program for RHEL.
The company offers a free RHEL Technical Overview course as well as fee-based courses. Red Hat offers a seven-day free trial of its training program, which provides access to more than 50 online courses.
Additionally, Red Hat offers two certifications: Red Hat Certified System Administrator and Red Hat Certified Engineer.
Ubuntu maintains official documentation online in both HTML and PDF format. Ubuntu encourages the community to contribute to its documentation. Canonical also maintains a collection of online tutorials for beginner and advanced users.