What is the best production linux server

We are evaluating few linux distor to select a new Linux OS for production. We used to have openSuse 10.2. it was stable and reliable,however it contains many unnecessary applications and services that we had to keep updating and patching.
We are looking for the more reliable Linux distro, a good support for java, tomcat, jboss, and apache, has the least non-production services and applications and of course secure.

I know you can't have a perfect Linux OS but which one is more meant for production as web application server?

So far I got Centos (recommended by gheist)

Thank you.
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Maciej SsysadminCommented:
The best distro for that (and for everything else) is the one, you (or your admin) know the best. It doesn't really matter if it is centos, ubuntu, gentoo, slackware, mandrive or anything else. If you fell comfortable with centos ie, just use it (ok, maybe linpus is not the best for server - just checked it few days ago, and I wouldn't install it on my server ;)).
What can be important is popularity - ubuntu, centos, gentoo, are quite popular I think, and this means, that these distributions have quite big community, which is good, as you can often get some support faster than with others (there is big chance, that someone already had similar problem that you can have, and it's already resolved).

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I like CentOS....and you'll find loads of appliance makers out there that agree with me (see Trixbox, IPcop...and so on!) :-)

As oklit suggests the best distribution is by far the one you know best.  Popular distro's are bound to have more information on the forums on how to achieve things and solve problems...

The Ubuntu server distro's are good - especially the LTS releases, with loads of helpful info out there.  CentOS as you have already mentioned is good and stable.....Red Hat guides work with CentOS too......so the advantages of a distro with a commercial interest, without the cost.

A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of bleeding edge distro's such as Fedora, and the Ubuntu non-LTS releases....

Of course if it's a mission critical box, consider the commercial support that the likes of Red Hat and Canonical offer.....it's that support that ensures future releases, and relying on forums in the event of a crisis can be nerve racking!!!!
cjl7freelance for hireCommented:

I you want/need enterprise support I would recommend RHEL or Ubuntu. RHEL is the #1 enterprise linux and proven.

If you don't need enterprise support I would recommend Ubuntu Server LTS for two reasons;
1. if you change your mind you can just buy support
2. it's the same distribution without any modifications between the "community" edition and the "enterprise" one.

my 2 cents....
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AbdellahTAuthor Commented:

one of the concerns I have about ubuntu in general is it's support of architectures. as far as I know it only supports amd64, i386. we DELLs with intels 64bits and intel 32bits. I could not find a consistent explanation which platforms are supported by the ubuntu serve LTS.  Can anyone shed some light on this?

Thank you

For me, one very important factor for using Linux in a production environment is the live cycle of the releases.

If you use something like Fedora, you'll be in a continual upgrade process as Fedora has very frequent upgrades.

If you want something stable with a long life between releases, then go for CentOS, RHEL, Debian, SuSE.
You mention unnecessary apps as a concern.  My recommendation is to start with a minimal installation of any one distribution, and add the apps that you need using apt-get or yum.  This may be time consuming initially, but it addresses the specific problem you had, and it will make the leanest installation possible.

In order to select a distribution, I would build a requirements matrix, such as must run JBoss, Tomcat, etc., have commercial support options (this is a production box, right?), supportability (what platforms is your support team familiar with) and whatever else is required for your environment.  List the distros out, and check off which requirements they meet.  If you are lucky, it will narrow down to two or three distributions.

My team choose RedHat Enterprise Linux.  Our support matrix was, Commercial platform, US vendor, support team familiarity, can it run our apps.  RedHat was pretty much it at the time, and we've stuck with it.
cjl7freelance for hireCommented:
About the supported plattforms:


States clearly that "Ubuntu Server Edition is meant to run on any Intel or AMD x86, AMD_64, EM_64T processors as well as Sun Sparc T1 processors."

And on

Some Dell servers are listed as "Compatible".

I have run Ubuntu on Dell/HP both 32 and 64 bit systems without a hitch.

You do not have to disqualify ubuntu for that reason! (IMO)
AbdellahTAuthor Commented:

Thank you cjl7:

I agree with what you said, however the only ubuntu server 8.4 TLS is available is for amd64.

check out this link:    http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download

I don't see any 64bit for intel nor for x86, etc.

could you please direct me to where i can get the right installation file for x86_64?

Thank you

If you are looking for a production system where reliability and support are important, I recommend that you select a supported commercial distribution, such as RedHat's RHEL or SuSE.  

Free distributions are not as reliably maintained as commercial distros, nor is support generally available for the programs you mention.  

As in everything, you get what you pay for.  If you are looking for support and reliability, you will either end up paying for commercial support or you will end up spending as much or more providing your own support.  
>Free distributions are not as reliably maintained as commercial distros, nor is support generally available for the programs you mention.  

I disagree with this statement.

CentOS certainly doesn't come under this description and I could well argue that debian is more reliable than RHEL and SuSE.
Tintin --

Who do you call to get a fix for a critical work-stopping problem with your CentOS system?  Or Tomcat running on Debian?
Maciej SsysadminCommented:
I call myself usually ;) Do you think, engineers from redhat/novell have some secret documentation, which is not available for others?
Yes - you always have to pay, but you have three options.
1. pay redhat or some similar one for their knowledge
2. hire administrator, and pay him for his knowledge
3. manage the server by yourself - pay for courses, books, and spend a lot of time to gain some experiences.

If I choose third one, why should I also pay some other company for things I can do myself?

I can even say, that sometimes it's faster to get help from ubuntu/gentoo/etc community than from paid support.
oklit --

I do all my own support.  But I'm not running a production server with requirements for high reliability. I use open-source repositories of bug fixes and updates for CentOS, Fedora, and Ubuntu.  Most of the patches I get from open distros work, but not all, and finding fixes can take a significant amount of time.  

RedHat doesn't have secret documentation, but they do have a staff dedicated to pro-actively keeping on top of bug reports (especially security bugs) and creating patches.  Many of the people on RedHat's staff (or Novell, or other commercial distros) are not system administrators, they are package developers.  They do spend significantly more testing patches than the open distros, simply because they are on the hook for fixing patches which don't work.  

As I said, and you seem to echo, if you want a reliable and stable production server, as AbdellahT said, you have to pay for it in one form or another.  

Have you ever had a case where you had a critical CentOS bug that would not have also been an issue with RHEL?

I'm not running a production server.  I don't run JBoss or Tomcat.  I don't run RHEL, so I can't compare it with CentOS on a bug for bug basis.  

As said, if you want a production quality system, you either need to pay in-house staff to maintain it or pay for commercial support.  
Eager:  that is the precise reason it has been said 'don't use bleeding edge distributions' as they will push to put the latest and greatest into their repositories just to get it out there, whilst others only use tried and tested packages.  I understand that sure, older packages can still have bugs in them, but isn't that more likely to be the package maintainer's problem rather than your distribution's buglist?

It's the same with anything really.. A lot of our customers desktop wise wouldn't change to Vista until it had been release for 1-2 years and/or a service pack had been released.  Why?  Because they don't want the risk of something new which could possibly have problems and be a big flop.

And just to put the cherry on the cake, I look after a few webservers for a customer and the only time apache gets restarted is when the server gets restarted (which is never), yet IIS gets a restart atleast once if not twice a week ;-)  

RE: the question
Whatever you/your administrator is most comfortable.  I'm a Gentoo fan.  I am biased as I come from a BSD background before changing to Linux and love Gentoo's portage collection.  But the bigger attraction for me is you build your box from bottom up.  Everything you install is there because you installed it, not because it was precompiled and bundled with your distribution.  It can be a little bit daunting the first time but there is great support in their IRC channel, forums and mailing list.  Another pull for me is you compile everything from source, meaning you can optimize your packages for your system and only compile support for what you need and not end up having support for 101 different packages you won't use but are compiled into binary package for 'just in case'.  Aswell, re: stable packages, Gentoo isn't at the forefront in their repository, but they do let you install the latest and greatest if you wish via what they call Overlays, although if you do generally you are on your own support-wise.  Finally, the upgrade path, Gentoo is a metadistribution meaning it doesn't really have a version.  The only thing you need to upgrade from time to time is your package manager.  

It sounds all great, but at the end of the day I've had my fair share of hair pulling moments.  If this is your first Linux server or no one is fully competent with Linux (although I'd imagine if they were, you wouldn't have posted this question), it might just pay off in the long run to either use a distribution with commercial support, or a local Linux outsource support company in your area and see what they use/support as at the end of the day, installing is nothing, it's the troubleshooting after the fact that is going to cause the most grey hair.
CentOS, Ubuntu, Suse
AbdellahTAuthor Commented:
We are going with SUSE Entreprise Linux over Red Hat Linux Enterprise Server because we are familiar with SUSE environments. The main reason we chose the commercial version of SUSE over the free version openSuse 10.3 is that SLES is garanteed to be supported for at least 5 years. while openSuse's  support ends in 2 years, you only can download updates and patches within the 2 years and that's about it, after those two years  you will have to upgrade to the next version, no patches or updates will be released for the old version. In Production environment where security standards and policies are big concern, we need a reliable system that is supported for longer time. Same thing applies to CenOS and Red Hat Server. Of course there is no perfect system, for us  SLES is a reliable linux system, provides means of security by default and comprable with most of software. I would not recommend using X Window Server (GUI) when running linux on production.

I thought this might help someone.

Thanks everyone

It really depends on th environment - the need for support, accountability, etc.
Note that RHEL has a seven year life cycle.

See http://www.redhat.com/security/updates/errata/
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