10 Linux Server Distros That Could Save You a Bundle

by Kenneth Hess

Paying too much for licenses is not good business. Using Linux in your data center is one way to save money. Here are ten Linux distros to consider.

Businesses require reliability, stability and compatibility. It's no wonder business owners prefer to stick with the status quo — it's what works for them.

Those entrepreneurs who take the time to research the possibilities outside that status quo find a treasure trove of free and low-cost alternatives. When it comes to software, Linux is at the top of that list. With more than 100 complete distributions from which to choose, Linux is far from a single entity.

Linux powers the majority of the world's websites, data centers, and development efforts. Consider this list of ten business-oriented Linux distributions as an all-in-one-place collection of information on the best of those possibilities. The list is in no particular order.

1. Red Hat Enterprise Linux Red Hat

Red Hat Linux is at the top of any Linux distribution list that's related to business use. It is the most successful Linux company to date. Red Hat had business in mind from day one with its focus on enterprise performance, usability and security. Red Hat took an early lead in corporate deployments and has never left that position.

Today, Red Hat not only still boasts its elite position in the Linux server market but also continues to make strides in virtualization, security and e-commerce. Red Hat is for serious business.

2. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server SUSE Linux

SUSE Linux, now owned by Micro Focus, still provides excellent support on a very stable and mission-critical capable operating system. Stability is the operative word for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). While SLES might not make your technical staff excited with leading-edge technology, you'll sleep better at night knowing you have the top-notch stability and security of SLES maintaining your business services.

And when you need help, SUSE support is there for you. SUSE support ranks number one by its customers and partners. Stability, security and excellent support all spell business in a climate that's hungry for customer dedication. SUSE receives recommendations from Microsoft, SAP and VMware.

3. Mandriva Enterprise Server Mandriva Business Server

Mandriva has a very basic philosophy for its Enterprise Server system: simplicity, high-performance and accessibility. Its focus is on lowering your cost of ownership and on simplifying your environment through easier management, virtualization, and stability.

One of the flagship services is Mandriva Directory Server (MDS). MDS is an easy-to-use and easy-to-manage LDAP solution. MDS manages Windows, Linux, Macs, identities, network resources and rights through a web interface. From deployment to disposal, MDS handles your user environments with ease.

4. MEPIS Linux MEPIS Linux

MEPIS, like most other Linux distributions, offers both a desktop and a server setup. No distribution is as well documented as MEPIS. There are easy guides on the main web site to help you through almost every possible scenario imaginable. MEPIS has an excellent reputation among techies for its ease of use and support.

MEPIS is one of those "best kept secrets" for business technology, but now the word is out. Principle Warren Woodford has more than four decades of technology and product development. Two of those decades have been spent on business solutions. If you want your technology to work together like it's supposed to, consider MEPIS as a serious contender.

5. Oracle Unbreakable Linux Oracle Linux Server

If you didn't know that Oracle produces its own Linux distribution, you're not alone. Oracle's Unbreakable Linux (OUL) is Red Hat Enterprise Linux fortified with Oracle's own special Kool-Aid. Optimized for Oracle's database services, OUL is a heavy contender in the enterprise Linux market. If you run Oracle databases and want to run them on Linux, you know the drill: Call Oracle.

Other than an "unbreakable" version of Linux, what else does the mighty Oracle offer your business? Oracle offers excellent enterprise-level support, comprehensive management, indemnification and testing at very reasonable prices. If you already run the world's best database, you should run it on the world's best operating system: Linux.

Next Page: 10 Linux Server Distros That Could Save You a Bundle: Next Five

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Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions.

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6. CentOS CentOS

CentOS for business might at first seem an odd recommendation, but it isn't. CentOS is another distribution that's based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and as of 2014 is actually part of the Red Hat trio of Linux distribution offerings along with RHEL and Fedora. CentOS is 100 percent binary compatible with RHEL. It is a community-supported distribution, but anyone who supports Red Hat can also support CentOS.

You're in good company with CentOS. VMware uses it for its virtual appliances, and VMware could use any Linux distribution or create its own branded distribution. They choose to use CentOS, which speaks volumes about its quality and reliability. Does it work for business? Ask VMware.

7. Debian Debian

Debian is a primary or top-level Linux distribution, which means that there is no distribution above it in the Linux distribution hierarchy. Many distributions use Debian as their basis, including MEPIS, Ubuntu and Mint. Debian is another community-driven and supported distribution but it has widespread enterprise adoption as well.

Should you decide to use Debian for your enterprise and don't want to rely on community support, there are currently 824 Debian consultants in 63 countries worldwide.

8. Ubuntu Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux, owned and supported by Canonical, is the world's most popular Linux distribution. There's a version of Ubuntu to meet every need from desktop to server to cloud. Canonical's support isn't the least expensive on the list, but it's the best for Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu's ease of use, built-in virtualization, and cloud connectivity make it one of the most versatile of all the Linux distributions. For business, you'd find it an extremely reliable and supportable operating system.

If you have sufficient expertise in-house, Ubuntu is free — free to use, free to change, free to redistribute. In a word, it's free. It's also very secure. Right out of the "box" Ubuntu can brag that it was the only operating system not compromised during a Black Hat hacker security conference.

9. Slackware Linux Slackware Linux

Slackware is the grandfather of all Linux distributions. It is the oldest surviving Linux distribution (1993), and it continues to be one of the most popular for business applications. Major updates are annual. Slackware runs on almost any hardware that you own. It's especially useful on older non-supported hardware for its small footprint and performance.

10. Gentoo Gentoo

Gentoo Linux is a fully customizable Linux distribution that boasts extreme performance. It has a very strong following of developers and users. Gentoo Linux makes an excellent choice for businesses who employ highly-skilled Linux engineers; it's not for newbies or wannabees, though.

Gentoo is an advanced operating system that is not high on the ease-of-use scale. But if you want an operating system that's performance-optimized, secure and highly configurable, Gentoo may be the best fit for you.

Recommended for You

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions.

Follow ServerWatch on Twitter and on Facebook

Prev Page: 10 Linux Server Distros That Could Save You a Bundle: Top Five

This article was originally published on Monday Aug 15th 2011
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