Which Server Linux Distribution Is Recommended for Back-end Developers?
We covered desktop Linux distributions, but what about server distributions? Desktop Linux distributions are focused on the GUI, desktop environments, and simplicity in order to attract as many new users to the platform. On the other hand, server Linux distributions are focused primary on stability and security. GUI is not an important factor, because often they are running in the “headless mode” (a server that has no monitor, keyboard or mouse), and users (developers) connect to the servers remotely via the terminal. Another reason is that GUI elements take up precious memory, and every bit of free memory is very valuable. Stability and security we don’t need to explain, everyone wants their application safe and available.
So, which server Linux distribution should you pick?
- Debian is considered the most stable server OS by hardcode system administrators for its very stable release cycle and sturdy, robust base system setup. The install image is relatively small and can be customized to very specific needs. The software base is huge, with 56864 software packages as of this writing. There’s a caveat, though. These packages are shared with desktop versions of Debian. Many other distributions, both client and server are based on debian’s .deb packages.
- Ubuntu Server is not bad either. It’s built completely on top of Debian and it’s 100% binary compatible with it, and Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) is investing more to make Ubuntu reliable server software. There is arguably more help about it online, and it has more up-to-date packages which is a mixed blessing in a server environment, but its LTS (long-term-support) releases are very popular. Developers working on Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based desktop distributions tend to prefer it due to the same software package management system, apt.
- RedHat Enterprise Linux or RHEL for short, is the other large stable server distribution, backed by RedHat. It is a commercial distribution, with base software available for free but paid support licenses. RedHat has many internal software tools and it’s working with several of the biggest enterprise software vendors, like Oracle, to make RedHat a perfect home for enterprise systems. Additionally, it’s at the heart of OpenShift, the RedHat platform-as-a-service initiative. RedHat Linux is popular with enterprise developers, as the support licenses can get a bit expensive for smaller projects. The software package system is based on rpm packages and yum update manager. It rivals Debian and Ubuntu for stability, longevity and software support.
- CentOS is the “free” version of RHEL. It’s built almost entirely out of RHEL, stripped of Red Hat branding and based on the same package system and same packages. It’s popular among developers who prefer to work with RPM and possibly ones using Fedora as their desktop system of choice.
- Scientific Linux “is a Linux release put together by Fermilab, CERN, and various other labs and universities around the world ready tuned for experimenters”. It’s a distribution focused more on computing and it’s suited for such purposes, and it’s based on RedHat/CentOS.
- CoreOS is very popular as a lightweight OS to run software containers on. Unlike the other distributions listed here, CoreOS comes with no package manager: the developer is expected to provide all software dependencies as a part of a lightweight “container”, a self-contained package of software.
Freelance Linux Developer
Freelance Linux Developer