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I'm interested in knowing the major differences between these two distros (particularly from a web server prospective).

So far I have learned that:

  • Debian generally has a quicker release cycle (so packages may be more up to date)
  • Debain allows more up to date packages via 'backports'
  • CentOS allows more up to date packages via 'EPEL'
  • Debian package manager is 'apt-get' and 'aptitude'
  • CentOS package manager is 'yum'

Can you think of more? Especially with regards to administrating the server on a day to day basis?

The purpose of this question is to help people decide on one or the other - and hopefully without off-topic opinion.

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In the end, use what you're comfortable with, and what you are competent at administrating. All other factors pale in importance to those. –  EEAA Jun 6 '12 at 13:34
    
While I think it's a good question in general, I think it's too open ended and too subjective to make a good SF question. I could probably write a few hundred pages on why I prefer Debian over CentOS for practical reasons. –  EightBitTony Jun 6 '12 at 13:57
    
EightBitTony - please blog about that, I'd love to read it :) Erik - I am interested in the differences as I'm more than happy to make the effort to learn the finer points of whichever distro appeals to me (hence wondering about the differences). –  A4J Jun 6 '12 at 16:51
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1 Answer

In my opinion both distros do have very old versions of software in their repositories -- if you need something more recent, do not use either of these distros. But if you care about stability (both uptime and "the upgrade does not break things" -stability), both are great choices. Well, anyway:

Debian pros

  • Has much more packages in its default repositories than CentOS
  • Default installation is more minimal. Might be easier on the server resources & security.

Debian cons

  • Does not have that "enterprise" status that CentOS enjoys -- might be an issue with some customers
  • Can be more problematic under VMware than CentOS. In my experience Debian works with VMware well, but generally has more unexpected issues than CentOS (meaning sudden lockups/reboots, server clock stuck [would be a long story to tell here]...).

CentOS pros

  • Has more mature clustering/virtualization/cluster filesystem packages out-of-the-box, IMHO.
  • Uses SELinux by default (can be a negative thing, too)
  • Has that "enterprise" status.
  • Kickstart makes cloning servers easier. (If you already use something like Puppet, this is not an issue with Debian, either...)
  • Sometimes has better documentation.

CentOS cons

  • Has way less packages available in its default repositories compared to Debian, even after enabling EPEL.
  • If you have to use Perl programs, RHEL/CentOS Perl is famous about how it's patched to be something else than Perl. Yes, generally things work, but for example scripts that heavily use bless() might be much slower with it. Your mileage may vary.
  • Heavier default install.
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More cons of CentOS: CentOS / RHEL do strange things to the linux file structure. yum / rpm dependency-checking is not as robust as Debian apt-get / aptitude –  Mike Pennington Jun 6 '12 at 14:24
    
What? Since when? Ten years ago I had problems, today, you have to tell me more. –  Janne Pikkarainen Jun 6 '12 at 14:38
    
First, I am offering an opinion and I agree yum dependency removals got better after yum-3.2.28-13. I assume you are asking about recent yum dependency issues, some examples: Bug 715373, Bug 711261, 713613 –  Mike Pennington Jun 6 '12 at 15:22
    
Thanks for the reply Janne, but you posted pros and cons (which are subjective) I would much prefer to simply know the differences, so we can decide for ourselves what is a pro or con (as they will vary from person to person). –  A4J Jun 6 '12 at 16:48
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