Open source cut its teeth on operating systems, earned its street cred on Linux and Apache, and never looked back, continuing ever since to extend the kingdom to databases, middleware, and newfangled platforms such as hypervisors for server virtualization. Our Bossies in platforms and middleware recognize a few old faces, and some fairly new ones.
Let's start where it all began: the server operating system. Here CentOS is our Bossie winner, which is actually a feather in Red Hat’s cap. We don’t have any firsthand knowledge of Red Hat’s feelings toward CentOS, but we’d wager it's not happy about it. Well, live by the sword, die by the same.
CentOS is RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), after all, just packaged under a different name, and without any references to Red Hat. That means you can install applications for RHEL on a CentOS server without any incompatibilities, and all RHEL updates are applicable to CentOS as well. Obviously, no support contracts are available for CentOS, but that’s the draw for many Linux veterans – the familiar Red Hat distribution, including updates, without the onus of having to purchase a support contract that is never used.
For open source client OS, we like Ubuntu Desktop Edition, although we almost hate to say it. Sometimes it seems that Ubuntu is the iPod of Linux distributions. It’s flashy, simple, and easy to work with. It also has legions of fanatical supporters, along with many detractors. It’s unquestionably a great distribution for those just getting into Linux and those who like the eye candy. For others, it’s too simple and too much like a Microsoft OS – but then those are generally the people that run Gentoo and are proud of it. The sheer amount of effort that’s been put into bringing Ubuntu into the mainstream is impressive, and it gets better with every release… now if we can only get the fanboys to tone it down a little.
Between Ubuntu and CentOS, you have the best of both Linux worlds – a strong desktop with plenty of pizzazz and community support, and a strong, entirely free server OS based completely on the most prevalent commercial Linux distribution available. The “Why Linux?” question has been answered, and it just might prove to be tougher to answer the “Which Linux?” question. Either of these distros will fit the bill.