I'm interested in going into systems and network administration and so I'm running a Linux server to learn and test out. It currently runs Ubuntu Server, but I'd like to know which distro is more commonly used in professional deployment, so I can install that instead and learn from it. I've heard that CentOS, RHEL, Fedora, and Debian are commonly used but I haven't heard much about Ubuntu Server.

Which one would the seasoned sysadmin recommend?


From my experience, I've seen more CentOS and RHEL than anything else. Of course everyone is going to have their own opinion and preference but those would be my 2 picks.

  • CentOS/RHEL is definitely the leader in the Enterprise server market. SuSE is close. – vmfarms Aug 17 '10 at 16:16
  • Agreed. CentOS/RHEL appears to be most prevalent on larger infrastructures. That being said, Ubuntu and other debian flavors are quite popular too -- especially with the consumer and small business markets. – Mike B Aug 17 '10 at 17:15
  • Totally agree since my company is using CentOS and my customers as well. – Truong Ha Aug 18 '10 at 7:48

You're going to have a difficult time finding an unbiased opinion regarding Linux distributions, as this is a contentious topic.

If you are looking for statistics on the most used Linux distribution as a server, I am not aware of any. You will have a difficult time locating recent, relevant, and unbiased analysis of distribution usage. It would be difficult to find a definitive source for this data.

Nevertheless, Distrowatch has a Web site that counts distributions based on page views. I would say this better examples the distributions more commonly used for workstations as opposed to servers. Also, This site has user entered data that provides statistics on distribution usage.


Depends. There are no, to my knowledge, hard numbers since anyone can download and install Linux as many times as they want.

Beginners and experienced alike use Ubuntu. Especially if they don't want to switch between home workstations and servers or workstations at work.

Debian is popular with admins because it tends to be straightforward and no nonsense due to their strict guidelines of what is and isn't endorsed by their philosophy of software. Usually if you want a specific purpose server, Debian is very stable and doesn't include a lot of stuff you don't want.

Red Hat's offerings are commercial and offer good support. Hardware compat lists, phone support, etc. are good for businesses.

Underneath it all the Linux kernel is the Linux kernel. The only big difference comes from the default and extras installed and how loose a distro plays with security updates.

You should install what you're most comfortable administrating. If you are used to the tools in Ubuntu, go with Ubuntu. Or Debian. Or CentOS. Whatever floats your boat. You're going to be better off using what you're comfortable and knowledgeable with than shoehorning into something you're not familiar with and in some cases subtle differences can create some not so amusing results (why would issuing that killall command make the server shut down?...oh...)


If you're running ISV applications that require support, the options are generally Red Hat or Suse, with Red Hat being the more common choice in most places that I see.

Ubuntu or Debian work fine and are valid choices, but in my experience people who run this in actual commerical production environments end up ripping it out when the local linux guru moves on. I've never met anyone who used Canonical support, so I have no idea how good or bad it is.

IMO apt is the best part about Ubuntu, and it is also less relevant in a production environment, where you're not experimenting and downloading random crap.

Also IMO, the benefit of being able to hire a RHCE or Suse certified whatever and have some expectation of what the person actually knows is a valuable thing. Discovering that the guy who setup everything with Ubuntu actually didn't know much, but was good with Google after he leaves is a hard and expensive lesson.


If you are a begginer i suggest you Ubuntu Server, is well supported by Canonical.

Debian are maybe the most used.

  • I already know my way around the system fairly well. What would you consider as a "beginner"? – Richard Aug 17 '10 at 16:17
  • 1
    @Robert-depending on the day of the week, everyone. – Bart Silverstrim Aug 17 '10 at 16:22
  • I meant, in terms of Linux knowledge/ability. – Richard Aug 17 '10 at 16:52
  • @Robert-depends on what you're doing. It's relative. In my opinion if you've used "several" distros and aren't thrown for a curve when someone suggests installing something from a tarball, or having to SSH into the server because the GUI locked up, and understand things like init and zombies and how to get system load and grep and open file handles and fsck and promiscuous mode, you're probably moving beyond beginner. If you have set up several different servers successfully, you're moving beyond beginner. – Bart Silverstrim Aug 17 '10 at 21:01
  • And, of course, you've recovered from at least two "OH @#%!!" moments with Linux, then you're probably doing okay. Anyone can set up a server that behaves and keep it going for a long time. Configuring, understanding, and maintaining it as well as coaxing it through a recovery, that's moving into non-beginner territory. – Bart Silverstrim Aug 17 '10 at 21:03

The answers you are going to receive will differ around the board depending on what people think you should use. Your common Enterprise Server Operating Systems for Linux would be RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). There is CentOS, which is basically a mirrored copy of RHEL, that is driven by the community. Fedora Core, while can be a server OS, it is a desktop version of RHEL, driven by the community. If you are wanting to get into Server Administration, I'd tend to stick will enterprise level OS's (so stay away from Ubuntu, Fedora Core, etc).

If you want to get into Unix, you can look into Solaris and HP-UX (not free, I do not believe).

With this being said, though, figure out what you like. I honestly use Archlinux for most of my stuff, but here at work, we run mostly RHEL 4/5, CentOS 4/5, Solaris 8/9/10, and HP-UX 11i.

  • Why was this downvoted? Pretty harse, I'd say - I was to the point and gave my opinion - tough crowd... – drewrockshard Aug 17 '10 at 20:10
  • I don't know why it was downvoted (I wish more people would voice it in a comment when they do that, personally) but I would speculate about the stay away comment, since at the heart Linux is just the kernel. They're the same OS with different eye candy. Ubuntu and Red Had and Suse all have corporate support if businesses want it, Debian is slow but stable. Personally I'm surprised more people haven't chimed in about FreeBSD or OpenBSD. – Bart Silverstrim Aug 17 '10 at 21:05
  • I think that Fedora/Redhat/CentOS certainly must have a stronger base of a distrobution compared to Ubuntu variants. – djangofan Aug 19 '10 at 17:58

centos Enterprise Server Operating Systems

  • is based on Redhat/Fedora. – djangofan Aug 19 '10 at 17:42
  • yes agree !!!!! – Rajat Aug 20 '10 at 10:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy