I am looking into a networking project and need to install a linux-based server. I was told an option could be RedHat. I have been looking around the RedHat site for a while and am having trouble differentiating what is open source and what is intended to be run as a server.

So, my questions, in a nutshell, does RedHat have free, open-source server software that I can download and install? What's the link? Do I have to replace the existing OS? (I have an older laptop for experimenting and trying different OS systems.)

4 Answers 4


There are a variety of linux popular distributions today each with it's own pros and cons. RedHat Inc (the cooperation) makes it's money by selling it's packaging of and support the software it distributes.

Free alternatives to RedHat are:

  • CentOS - This is a community project which aims to be as close to RedHat as they can be while still being free. (Provides software in .rpm format)
  • Ubuntu - Seen as a 'beginner' distro. They aim to make the transition as easy as possible in all kinds of ways including an installer that starts you on your way called Wubi. (Uses .deb)
  • Debian - Known as the tried and true choice. Debian's goal is be rock-solid, even it means trailing behind the pack getting the latest and greatest features. (also uses .deb)

The biggest difference between these is how you will get new programs for your system and maintain the ones that you already have. In the linux world software is downloaded from the maintainers of your distro through a tool called a package manager. These programs maintain a list of available software and drive the actual installation or removal process for you.

Depending on what software you plan to use for your networking project, any one of these may be your best choice. (I have indicated the package format used by each of the distros in my list above in case they help in choosing the right one to work with any software you might be trying to get linux to run. Chances are anything you can find in it's own downloadable .deb or .rpm is already available through the package manager)

  • "Corporation" not "Cooperation", but I get your drift
    – JDS
    Oct 8, 2011 at 1:51

Go for CentOS linux it is free version of redhat, CentOS is exactly the same as RHEL http://www.centos.org/


"So, my questions, in a nutshell, does RedHat have free, open-source server software that I can download and install?"


But CentOS is a clone of RedHat and is free.

There is also Fedora, which is free, and is the RedHat development branch (sorta), but maybe a little too bleeding-edge.

Finally, I recommend Ubuntu Server Edition, which is free.




However, there is a lot more to this than just the "free download" part. For example, what is the "networking project"?

  • For a web server, you will need to make sure you install Web Server software, such as Apache. Others include nginx and lighttpd, but Apache is probably the best place to start.
  • For a database server, you will need to install database server software, such as MySQL. Other options include PostgreSQL, and some others, but those are probably the biggest two in the open source world.
  • For other projects, you will need other server software.

But my point is really this: you do not need to install an OS with which you are unfamiliar, as all you can find all of these or their equivalents that will run on Windows, too (or Mac OS X for that matter). (And this is coming from a die hard Linux fan who doesn't use Windows at all.) Apache? Runs on Windows. MySQL? Runs on Windows.

Just something to consider.

Also, about the Linux distros. While Redhat, CentOS, and Ubuntu do have "server versions" of their OSes available, in the Linux world, the distinction between "server" and "desktop" is really one of packaging than something fundamental. Take Ubuntu server vs Ubuntu desktop, as an example. You can start with either, and have a full fledged Apache web server running. The end result will be the same. Whereas, in Windows Server, there are some fundamental differences between server and desktop versions of the OS. (But those differences probably revolve primarily around licensing. Anyway, I digress.)


You can use Scientific Linux http://www.scientificlinux.org/. He better follow Red Hat, more precisely always comes before the centos.

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