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Evaluate Linux server distros for your data center

Linux is known for its reliability and flexibility in the data center. To select the proper distribution for your servers, you'll need to evaluate your application and support needs

Most data centers include Linux, but there are many Linux server distros to choose from. Deciding which one is...

the right fit for your data center can be confusing, but there are three main options: Ubuntu Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CoreOS.

Linux is flexible, reliable, agile and secure, which makes it a strong contender for enterprises and SMBs. If you want your Linux OS to cover a wide range of use cases, you cannot go wrong with Ubuntu Server 18.04. This Ubuntu version is a long-term support release, and it's capable of serving large scale-out needs, as well as some more specific workloads, such as database servers, web servers, lightweight directory access protocol servers and OpenStack.

Ubuntu Server supports the ZFS volume management/file system, which is ideal for servers and containers because it includes all the tools you need for containers and clustering, as well as snap universal package support. It is also certified as a guest on AWS, Microsoft Azure, Joyent, IBM, Google Cloud Platform and Rackspace.

When it comes to Linux server distros, Ubuntu Server has many customization options and few system requirements. Ubuntu Server is terminal-only; you can install a GUI desktop environment, but that can consume precious system resources.

Best-supported distribution: RHEL

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is one of the most widely adopted Linux server distros thanks in part to the centralized support that comes with it. An RHEL subscription gives you access to experts and services that can help you build, deploy and manage your Linux-based servers.

You can reach technicians via phone or the customer portal, which has more than 60,000 documents and articles in 10 different languages. Red Hat also hosts expert talks, video tutorials and experimentation labs.

Red Hat's technicians have a deep understanding of the industry and they provide support for a variety of workloads, such as high-performance computing, IBM z Systems, SAP applications and containers. RHEL is also popular because of its application versatility. You can install RHEL either as a text-based platform or with a GUI.

Linux server distros for containers

Considering how widespread containers have become, it makes sense to have CoreOS on your evaluation shortlist.

CoreOS comes with essential container tools such as etcd, fleet, flannel, Docker and rkt. With CoreOS you can create, customize, scale, secure, manage and debug container clusters with an ease you won't find in a general purpose distribution.

You can run CoreOS on a cloud platform, as a virtual machine or on bare metal. That said, CoreOS is a test-based platform, so you need a solid understanding of the command line to get the most out of this Linux OS.

CoreOS also offers effective management of proliferating web servers, automatic software updates and the assurance that all of your applications can run on the provider of your choice. With the continued rise of container use, it is in a business' best interest to look into a container-specific operating system.

This was last published in November 2018

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What features do you look for in a Linux operating system?
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Where I work we have systems running various OSs, but we all end up gravitating to using CentOS/RHEL.  SUSE and Ubuntu have given us problems in the past.

SLES 15 took the rc.local directory we run our boot scripts in away, and while I am grateful that it made us better administrators for having to learn and integrate our workflow to systemd daemons, it was a pain in the rear at the time.

Ubuntu we have had problems just getting the installer to function properly at times.  It kept giving me network configuration timeout errors for a system we wanted air-gapped.  When I gave up and decided to put it on a network just for the installation it gave me an error during partitioning.

I have not used CoreOS but I bet it is a good product if it is part of Red Hat.
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