Linux has won the data center battle. Big data, clouds, virtual servers…chances are, if you’ve worked with any of those technologies, you’ve touched Linux.

Between the various distributions, you’ll find Linux is widespread among the enterprise. You may think Red Hat has pretty much taken over as the darling of the data center–and in some respects, you may be right; however, there are plenty of Linux distributions that can serve the data center well.

Let’s look at some of the major Linux distributions that have proved themselves worthy of your data center. Hopefully, you’ll want to test one or more of these distributions.

Linux distributions that are not free

Red Hat

No list of data center-ready operating systems would be complete without Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Red Hat has an estimated 65-80% market share of enterprise distributions.

With RHEL you get one of the most reliable platforms on the market, along with award-winning support and service. RHEL can enable your business with Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, middleware, integration and automation, storage, containers, virtualization, business process automation, and much more. In fact, Red Hat offers enough products to provide you with a complete open source infrastructure.

This comes with one caveat: cost. Red Hat is not free, and even installing free software on Red Hat’s platform requires access to the company’s subscription service. The expense does bring levels of reliability, security, and support that few platforms can touch.

SEE: The digital transformation, the Red Hat way (Tech Pro Research)


One distribution that can give Red Hat a run for its money is SUSE. It’s estimated that SUSE has around 25% market share of corporate Linux users; considering the product SUSE offers, this number should be significantly higher. SUSE does, however, focus much of its attention on specific vertical markets such as SAP and VMware. Because of SUSE’s tight connection to the SAP market, the platform does incredibly well within the realm of big data. SUSE is specifically designed for mixed IT environments; it’s certified on all major hardware platforms; and it supports all major hypervisors. SUSE is also the platform endorsed by Microsoft.

An area where SUSE dominates is accessibility–SUSE goes out of its way to maintain a level of openness that few major companies can match. In addition, SUSE is one of the most user-friendly enterprise-ready platforms on the market.

SEE: SUSE acquires HPE OpenStack and Cloud Foundry assets (ZDNet)

Free Linux distributions


CoreOS is one of the most widely used container-based platforms. CoreOS was designed specifically for providing infrastructure to clustered deployments. The platform focuses on automation, ease of application deployment, security, reliability, and scalability.

Although CoreOS is an operating system, it only provides minimal functionality for deploying applications within containers. CoreOS shares a software development kit with Gentoo, Chrome OS, and Chromium OS. By depending on Docker containers (as opposed to hypervisors) applications served up by CoreOS use far fewer system resources. CoreOS also makes it easy to scale out hundreds of containers and do so frequently.

CoreOS is designed for security, consistency, and reliability, and it’s ideal for Linux cluster deployments.


CentOS is a stable, predictable, manageable, and reproducible platform and is derived from the sources of RHEL. With CentOS, it is important to know that:

  • CentOS does not include all of the RHEL source code;
  • CentOS does include packages and capabilities not found in RHEL;
  • CentOS is built and tested in a completely different environment than RHEL;
  • CentOS has not been awarded any government security certifications;
  • major hardware/software vendors do not certify CentOS for use with their products; and
  • security CVEs are issued for RHEL, not CentOS.

That said, CentOS is a solid choice for your data center, especially if you won’t need the support found in RHEL. Although CentOS isn’t a drop-in equivalent for RHEL, it is close enough to give the benefits that a typical RHEL user would look for.

CentOS also provide official images for Amazon, Google, and more. For self-hosted cloud, CentOS provides a generic cloud-init enabled image.

SEE: Three serious Linux kernel security holes patched (ZDNet)

Ubuntu Server

Ubuntu Server offers economic and technical scalability for your data center…be it public or private. The Ubuntu Server platform makes it easy to deploy an OpenStack cloud, a Hadoop cluster, or even a 50,000-node render farm.

If you’re looking for massive scalability, Ubuntu Server might be the best option available. And with the LTS release, you’re guaranteed five years of support from Canonical. Ubuntu Server makes use of the ZFS file system, which enables easy snapshotting and enjoys the power of Ubuntu snaps for incredibly easy package management.

Ubuntu Server is certified as a guest on AWS, Microsoft Azure, Joyent, IBM, and HP Cloud.

And we must not forget that Ubuntu Server is a major player with regards to OpenStack. With Ubuntu OpenStack you get:

  • access to the Juju OpenStack bundle (automated deployment of OpenStack into LXD system containers);
  • ZFS support for LXD OpenStack hosts;
  • Nova LXD driver (which allows you to deploy OpenStack instances as system containers);
  • automated installation, queuing/notification, and the integration of database-as-a-service; and
  • a platform certified by Microsoft to host Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as guests.

The list goes on

This is a list of the major players within the world of Linux, though the list of Linux distributions that could serve in your database is longer. If you’re looking for best case/practices, you cannot go wrong with any of the Linux platforms featured in this article.