Finding the Best Linux Distro for Your Business Needs

Deploying Linux for your organization‘s servers requires carefully weighing the pros and cons of distributions (distros) like Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). The right choice comes down to aligning the strengths of a distro closely to your planned workloads and IT environment. This guide compares top options on key criteria, and provides tips on selecting the best fit to meet business goals.

Growth of Linux adoption shows the expanding importance of these decisions – Linux servers now power *97% of the world‘s supercomputers, 66% of websites globally on the internet, 96.3% of the world’s top 1 million servers. Enterprise spending on Linux server distributions is forecasted to grow at a compounded annual rate of 13.7% between 2020-2025 reaching $15.64 billion according to Valuates Reports. With Linux playing a central role in delivering computing services efficiently today, delving into the nuances around distributions merits attention.

Evaluating technical capabilities along factors like stability, security and cost is essential. Equally important is whether ecosystem elements like support services, 3rd party software integration and vendor partnerships align to business needs. This review spotlights five enterprise-grade distros worth considering, and offers best practices around assessing options. Matching priorities around availability, data safety, scalability and TCO to Linux distro strengths positions organizations to maximally leverage these OS investments over the long-term.

How Leading Linux Server Distributions Compare

DistributionProsConsIdeal Use Case
Red Hat Enterprise LinuxStable with vendor supports options, certified for major software, extensive ISV ecosystemCommercial license fees, slower upgrade cycleBusiness applications, databases
SUSE Linux Enterprise ServerHigh availability capabilities, automated security compliance, supports IBM Z mainframesSubscription cost for priority supportMission critical workloads, hybrid cloud
Ubuntu ServerWide range of supported hardware, streamlined updates, strong cloud integrationLacks RHEL certifications, less ISV verified supportCloud-native apps, web hosting, OpenStack
DebianUniversal software compatibility, strict open source philosophy, enormous repository of packagesDated packages, limited roadmap transparencyLegacy & niche apps, bare metal
CentOS StreamOpen community development model, cutting edge RHEL codebase access, forward-looking innovationChanges introduced more rapidlyProgressive organization wanting earlier access

Evaluating technical capabilities is just the start – engage with account management teams to better understand how commercial vendors strategically invest in enterprise needs versus community editions that serve broader objectives.

Key Benchmarks Reveal Distro Performance Differences

General Linux server distribution benchmarks help set reasonable expectations around comparative performance for workloads like database hosting, media streaming, web hosting and file sharing.

Phoronix Test Suite provides the most comprehensive benchmarking across nearly every Linux distro, leveraging tools including OpenSSL, 7-Zip, SQLite, Apache Bench on standardized test systems.

While specific results vary across versions, their tests reveal Debian and Ubuntu distros tend to excel optimizing MySQL database throughput crucial for responsive apps, while commercial RHEL and SLES achieve faster computational speeds at scale – an edge when processing high performance workloads. Understanding subtle advantages around storage, memory and socket handling philosophies prove useful when extrapolating to production environments.

Repeating benchmarks yourself using trailing releases on retired test servers allows focusing comparisons on elements like driver versions that impact Δ performance on your specific hardware. Perpetually testing distribution changes hands-on makes adopting the latest optimizations second nature.

Best Practices for Migrating Between Linux Distros

Once the ideal Linux distro(s) get identified through methodical comparison for planned workloads, developing a transition plan is recommended for smoother adoption. Here are key guidelines:

  • Begin by running the intended distribution as a virtual machine to test compatibility with essential apps and infrastructure
  • Build out organizational expertise in the new distro through pilots, training programs and vendor events well ahead of production deployment
  • Develop automated playbooks using configuration management tools like Ansible to orchestrate OS deployments across server clusters
  • View any distro shift as an opportunity to implement security best practices like disabling unneeded services during provisioning
  • Run mixed environments supporting old and new distros through transitional periods to ease migrations
  • Redirect a portion of traffic to new servers first to monitor for issues before cutting over fully
  • Assign dedicated SRE team to focus on Linux upgrades apart from BAU to ensure proper attention

Methodically progressing through these steps will minimize business disruption when the time comes to rollout a new Linux distro more broadly.

Criteria That Often Steers the Right Linux Distro Pick

Beyond just technical capabilities, analyzing operational priorities and constraints helps narrow choices:

1. Legacy Software Dependencies – Older custom apps may require outdated package versions only available on certain distros or may lack certification beyond RHEL 6.x

2. Proprietary Hardware/Driver Needs – If existing infrastructure relies on vendors like Cisco, confirm Linux distro interoperability to avoid replacing components.

3. Public Cloud Strategy – Cloud provider partnerships with OS vendors ensures tighter instance OS optimization – AWS with Ubuntu, Azure with SUSE, Google Cloud Platform with RHEL etc.

4. Enterprise Software Standardization – RHEL often surfaces as the default choice in organizations heavily invested in proprietary software given ISV support.

5. Skills Investments – While core Linux skills translate across distros, existing ops talent play a key role in influencing comfort with distributions.

6. Corporate Policies/Risk Preferences – Governance policies around commercial software usage, open source contribution etc, and risk tolerance thresholds tend to solidify enterprise preferences.

Giving sufficient weight to these aspects ensures selected Linux server distros sustainably support business goals within constraints.

Evaluating options specifically for your environment still proves useful – benefits beyond paper specifications could arise that improve outcomes. Test driving trial versions with workloads and inspecting code commits delivering enhancements offers insights informing the right strategic choice.

Key Takeaways – Choosing the Best Enterprise Linux Distro

Selecting a Linux server distribution requires balancing technical capabilities against business needs:

  • Measure distros against workload requirements around performance, availability and scalability
  • Compare ecosystem support across ISVs, cloud partners and hardware certifications
  • Align to skills available to operate the distribution within the organization
  • Transition methodically through a lift-and-shift progression across environments
  • Re-assess as business needs evolve to prevent outgrowing the distribution

Approaching Linux server distro evaluation from mix of technical, operational and strategic angles allows organizations to reach sound conclusions. Overweighting subjective preferences introduces risks – maintain objectivity by mapping distro qualities to current and future workload patterns. Test in limited deployments then expand as the new Linux distribution earns trust. Partner with peer teams that manage Linux in other large environments to leverage real-world experiences beyond published specifications. Following structured best practices ensures your organization extracts the maximum value possible from Linux server OS investments.

Did you like those interesting facts?

Click on smiley face to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

      Interesting Facts
      Login/Register access is temporary disabled