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What's the best Linux distro for you?

What is a Linux distribution?

A Linux® distribution, or distro, is an installable operating system (OS) built from the Linux kernel and the supporting user programs and libraries that are needed to assemble a complete system. A Linux distro gives users an easy way to install and manage a Linux system.  

Because Linux is an open source OS, anyone can run, study, modify, and redistribute the source code, or even sell copies of their modified code. As a result, there are many different Linux distros available.

How do I choose a Linux distro?

Choosing the right Linux distro will depend on your use case and tool requirements. Certain Linux distros work better for different purposes. Some distros are designed for desktop users while others are designed to support servers.

So ask yourself: Do I need a Linux distro that’s good for beginners, or am I more advanced? Am I looking for a distro that is easy to install? Is stability and security a top priority? What kind of support will I need? When you understand your priorities, you can then decide which distro is right for you.

Enterprise vs. community Linux distros

Linux distros are available as community versions or enterprise versions. A community distro is a free Linux distro primarily supported and maintained by the open source community. An enterprise—or commercial—Linux distro is available through a subscription from a vendor and does not rely solely on community support.

The primary difference between community and enterprise distros is who decides what use cases are important to their users. A community distro’s direction is set by contributors, who choose and maintain packages from the wide variety of open source options. The direction of an enterprise distro is set by a vendor, based on the needs of the customers they serve.

The Fedora project has a community of users, contributors, and supporters—thousands of them, actually—working to build the open source Fedora distro. Red Hat is the primary project sponsor. Fedora is focused on innovation and developing new technology, with a rapid release cycle that provides the latest technology on current hardware platforms. There are 2 major releases each year, and each release is supported for a year.

Red Hat® Enterprise Linux—Red Hat’s commercially supported Linux distro—is the result of a collaborative development process with the open source community and with customers about their needs. Red Hat works with many upstream communities, including Fedora, to develop features and bug fixes, which then are integrated into Red Hat Enterprise Linux.This process leads to an enterprise-grade OS with stabilized open source features.

Although Red Hat Enterprise Linux is based on the Fedora project, not every Fedora package is included. Red Hat carefully selects the packages that will be integrated into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and will also make additional advancements to the technology, which are then passed back to the open source community.

What are the benefits of an enterprise distro?

If Linux is free and open source, why would you want to pay for a commercial distribution? Community distros are a great option for people who are new to Linux and don’t have much experience with the command line, or who just want to play around and experiment. If you’re trying to support a server for a long period of time, community distros like Fedora might not be the best choice.

Enterprise distros, like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, are designed to meet business needs and concerns. Red Hat Enterprise Linux offers 10-year life cycle support, so you can better support your critical business apps for the long term. With an enterprise distro, you get patches, updates, upgrades, expert technical support, and access to training and resources. A community distro relies on forum-based support from its community members, and release cycles aren’t always on a regular cadence.

Also with a commercially supported distro, you get the benefits of the latest open source innovation with the stability and support an enterprise needs. Red Hat has a team of engineers to help improve features, reliability, and security to make sure your infrastructure performs and remains stable—no matter your use case and workload.

Why choose Red Hat for Linux?

Every technology in your IT stack needs to work together. And the workloads need to be portable and scalable across bare metal servers, virtual machines, containers, or private and public clouds. They need a modern, security-focused OS. That OS is Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

With a standard OS underlying your workloads, you can easily move them across environments—wherever it makes sense for your business. Red Hat Enterprise Linux gives you a consistent, stable foundation across hybrid cloud deployments, along with built-in manageability and integration with the broader Red Hat management and automation portfolio.