There are literally hundreds of different distributions of Linux, and 7 or 8 that are very widely deployed in server environments. The reasons Ubuntu is our preferred distribution include:
- No separate version of operating system–Red Hat and Novell/SuSE keep some of their stuff for their commercial version
- Commercial company backing it (Canonical, LTD), support contracts available
- Strong community support, lots of friendly help available
- “Long Term Support” releases, with a commitment by Canonical to maintain security releases for 5 years on designated versions
- Superior upgrade path when a version reaches end-of-life
- Nice balance between cutting-edge versions of new software, while making sure they’re stable
- Easy package management, well-built packages
OpenSuse has no commercial support available, and no commitment on the part of Novell to provide long term support to their free versions–you have to buy SuSE Enterprise Linux to get that level of stability/support, and that’s not the same software–they bundle older versions in their enterprise distributions that often don’t have features we’re coding on top of…
The upgrade path is another nice feature–we’ve had very good success upgrading Ubuntu boxes in place, without having to install an entirely new system and migrate the data over.
We support CentOS as well, which is a free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, because some of the software our clients run are only available for Red Hat, so we have to… CentOS doesn’t have as good an upgrade path as Ubuntu, so we don’t include system upgrades at software end-of-life with that. We have supported SuSE boxes in the past, but I think we’re down to a single one running some legacy software. The main reason we discourage it is to streamline our processes–it’s much easier to administer a bunch of the same operating system, than having every box be a one-off system.
We’ve been doing this long enough to have to upgrade several servers because the OS has reached end-of-life and there are no more security releases available. Of the free distributions, the only ones we can deploy with confidence knowing we won’t have to upgrade for at least 3 or 4 years are Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. While there are many other solid distribution choices you could make, none of the others quite stack up to meet our needs as well as Ubuntu and CentOS.