Red Hat Maintains Top Linux Hosting Spot

by Sean Michael Kerner

Netcraft's latest numbers show some movement among the Linux distros. Is Red Hat losing ground?

Netcraft's latest Linux statistics present Red Hat as the dominant Linux distribution in the hosting industry.

The results come from Netcraft's hosting provider switching analysis. Netcraft said it showed that Red Hat holds 49.8 percent market share, which is actually down by 1 percent from its January survey. At that time, the research firm counted Red Hat as holding 50.8 percent of the hosting market.

Cobalt, the back-up server system recently open-sourced by Sun Microsystems, held the No. 2 spot in Netcraft's numbers with a 20.8 percent market share, which is down about a half percent from six months ago.

Community-driven Linux distribution provider Debian held on to the third spot with a 15.9 percent market share rating, up a half percentage point.

Novell's SUSE Linux ranked fourth in the survey with 11.8 percent market share, thought it gained just under 1 percentage point from the previous survey. Still, this time, it showed a growth rate of 15.6 percent.

According to Netcraft, the fastest growing distribution since its last survey was Gentoo Linux, which showed a rate of 49.5 percent. But that's growth toward a 1 percent market share.

In the January survey, Debian was reported as the fastest growing distribution at 24.6 percent.

The fact that Gentoo showed up in the numbers is a sign it is enjoying more interest among users.

"While Gentoo is obviously the underdog in terms of market share, the rapid growth rate is representative of the fact that Gentoo is becoming more and more acceptable as a server system," Jon Portnoy, head of Gentoo developer relations, told internetnews.com.

"Traditionally, Gentoo was a very desktop-oriented distribution, and we're all glad our efforts to improve quality and provide an excellent secure server environment are paying off," he said.

But industry observers note that Netcraft's numbers need to be viewed within context, since they are by no means considered complete numbers or stats on the Linux industry as a whole.

For example, Red Hat recently reported an increaseof 98,000 subscriptions. Less than 24 percent of those were for the hosting business. Enterprise IT deployments, which are not measured in the Netcraft survey, represented the lion's share of Red Hat's numbers.

Furthermore, by Netcraft's own admission, among its hosting survey base, more than 25 percent of hosts actually provide a distribution name. Indeed, it is considered fairly common practice for Web administrators to disable an OS/Linux distribution name reporting from inside the Apache http.conf file. One of the reasons generally given for disabling distribution reporting is to make it more difficult for malicious network scanners to exploit systems by simply noting the OS and version number and then looking for vulnerabilities specific to the reported version.

This article was originally publsihed on internetnews.com.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Jul 13th 2004
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