I have been using Linux at home for years now. I started with Redhat in 1999, moved to Fedora (Core) in 2003, had a great time with Gentoo in 2004, discovered Kubuntu in 2005 and this year I’ve moved to Ubuntu.Â At work, I used Redhat initially (1999) until I discovered that Centos was a free clone of Redhat Enterprise Linux and this is what I’ve been using for the past few years.
I have ordered a brand new Dell PowerEdge 840 server forÂ Knowledge Seven Ltd and I’ll normally get it in one or two weeks. And this has started to give me massive headaches as I can’t choose what Linux distribution to run on it.
I do not want to run a Linux distribution which is not free and therefore this rules out both Redhat Enterprise Linux and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server. I’ve spent some reading reading about Ubuntu Server Edition and openSUSE:
- Ubuntu Server Edition — I’ve been a very satisfied Ubuntu (home) user for years now but I have some doubts about running it on a (non-mission critical but still…) server. It seems to me that Ubuntu is not proven on servers even though it is derived from Debian (which is not an option as I am not willing to learn yet another distribution…) Does anyone has some experience on running Ubuntu on a real server with three Gigabit interfaces, LVM and Software RAID 1?
- openSUSE — I’ve never used SUSE in my life. But I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been raving about the latest openSUSE 11.0 because of its installer and its configuration tool (Yast) Who has some experience on using openSUSE on a server? What are the strong points of openSUSE?
Even though both are nice, I am somewhat reluctant to use any one of them. Ubuntu Server Edition is not yet proven and I have no experience of openSUSE. Can someone convince me to change my mind?
In the meantime, this leaves me with Fedora and Centos and I really really really can’t decide…
- Fedora — I used Redhat and Fedora Core on real servers before and I was mostly satisfied. One problem I had with a Redhat 7.3 server five years ago was that there was no real upgrade path to Redhat 8.0 and that left me with a server where I had to compile everything from source (Apache, Samba, etc.) I’ve read that upgrades are painless now but is this true? Is running Fedora on a server something sensible to do given that there is a new version of the distribution every year? On the other hand, I know a lot of people (including my younger brother) who use Fedora for everything and who are very satisfied.
- Last but not least, Centos — This is the distribution that I’ve previously deployed on a number of servers. Most of the time, I’ve had no problems at all. In fact, Centos is a freely available recompilation (I’m simplifying…) of Redhat Enterprise Linux which is the de-facto standard Linux enterprise distribution. But it is sometimes, ahem, boring (but is this a bad thing on a server?)
Fedora has a lot of features… decreasing its reliability? Centos, which is indirectly derived from a prior (and more stable) version of Fedora, is Redhat Enterprise Linux but will it satisfy a geek like me who loves to experiment?
We thought, the obvious choice would be Ubuntu. Because you have been using it a long time and also (I think) maybe implementing it into UoM Servers. A bit weird..
The UoM servers I’ve deployed run Centos :-)
I don’t understand your post.
You didn’t mention your needs. Different distros come with different packages (though which can be installed on others) which meet certain needs.
For e.g – I’d go for OpenSuse if I want my students to access a product like Moodle for details about their courses held on the server but with the authentication handled by Kerberos. OpenSuse integrates Kerberos into its own control panel (GUI) which makes things easy to manage.
What will the server do? What kind of services will be offering? Will you be deploying apache services and running thin clients? I don’t believe anyone can help you choose a distro if you don’t describe what the needs as well as cost of ownership incl. life expectancy of your server.
True. I should have been more explicit.
The server (which will be the only server in the company) will provide a number of important services:
(2) DHCP and DNS
(3) Squid cache for yum and for enhancing browsing
(4) Apache for installation of Linux via HTTP, vTiger CRM, Tracks
(5) MySQL for vTiger
(6) File sharing using NFS and (maybe) SMB
(7) + a number of additional server software (like JBoss / PostgreSQL) depending on the additional training I’ll provide in the coming months.
The big problem is that I intend to run a number of non-mainstream applications on this server (vTiger, Tracks, JBoss, etc.) and I wonder whether such software is correctly supported in the “enterprise” distributions (like Centos.) In that case, Fedora will suit me fine.
On the other hand, I’ll have software RAID 1 and LVM on the server and I would really like to know whether the implementation of those are as reliable in Fedora as they are in Centos…
If you are comfortable with ubuntu, debian is the obvious choice. I use debian a lot at work, and I run ubuntu at home. They’re so similar that you’ll feel right at home. It’s not like having to learn a new distro. I have a lot of respect for debian and FreeBSD. Never had any problems with either. They just run and run and run.
Eddy Young says
Experiment? On a production server? :-)
Eddy. (Cynic-addicted *sigh*)
Eddy Young says
Seriously, give OpenSolaris a try, if it will be on a production server. You will make your storage more scalable and reliable thanks to ZFS.
I would look at things in a different way. Most applications are certified to run on RHEL or Suse Enterprise server. Ubuntu is a relatively new player in the market though we cannot deny that Debian is a very stable distro. Ruling out commercial/paid versions you are left out with the free versions of both these distros, CentOS and OpenSuse. I would rule out OpenSuse (even Ubuntu) since they have the bad habit of placing files in different locations and/or changing default configuration file names which makes it hard for people to learn/follow LPI certifications. Each distro have their plus…Ubuntu usability, OpenSuse an integrated management console (Yast) and CentOS being a rebuilt of a rock solid distro. Novell is definitely contributing to major projects in the Open Source Community but their patent agreements with Microsoft can have unpredictable effects on both Suse and OpenSuse in coming months with Microsoft engineers interfering at the operational level. Fedora unlike what most people think is not a test bed for Red Hat Enterprise (even if it is true that two versions of Fedora make a stable version major/minor of RHEL). Fedora is more of bleeding technology that will eventually make way into most distributions and any application that will run on RHEL/CentOS will run on fedora. The only issue concerns the releases; RHEL has a longer release cycle while a new version of Fedora is released on average every six months. The best bet would be to run CentOS which would already have been certified (RHEL) to run on these servers and benefit from updates within hours of being released by Red Hat. Fedora currently has some preview technology which wouldnâ€™t make it so suitable for a production environment. Again this assumption relies on the fact that you can freely switch between different package systems (as this is the real difference between these distros) and handle tools like apt-get and yum without any trouble as the server will be as stable as it is actually configured to be. Rest assured, all features that work in CentOS work in the same fashion in Fedora (actually these features are developed and enhanced in Fedora before making way into RHEL), the only server side service that cannot function well right now (Fedora 10) as far as I know is Xen Hypervisor, everything else runs like a charm.
I’d go with Fedora and install the home server solution (distributed in a repository) from http://www.amahi.org. It gives you all the benefits of Fedora, plus it does all the heavy lifting to get your home server up and running. It incudes:
1. Web 2.0 UI for configuration
2. user authenticated file sharing (by user permissions)
4. Bare metal network backup for all machines
5. collaborative apps like Wiki, calendar, etc.
6. and there’s more …
This post is quite ironic. What are you selling then?
Otherwise, any distro you mentionned is OK except for Fedora whose life cycle is very short. We have hundreds of Debian servers.
Thanks Amit for your thoughtful comment. I’m leaning towards Centos for peace of mind… even though I believe I’ll have some problems from time to time to install everything that I have to experiment with. I’m using the word “experiment” here, Eddy, in the noble sense e.g. trying both JBoss and Glassfish when devising an Enterprise Java training course, etc.
Thanks FredSource for the link to Amahi. I’ll have a look.
And S(tÃ©phane), I wrote that post because I can’t (or couldn’t) choose between Fedora and Centos on the server. It was not really supposed to be ironic…
Thanks all. I’ve (think I’ve) settled for Centos on the server :-) As for the desktop computers I’ll use for training, I’ll rotate between Fedora, openSUSE and Centos depending on (i) my mood and (ii) the exact requirements of my customers as most of them are using either RHEL or SLES at work.
By the way, the server will have two SATA hard drives (initially) and I intend to use them in a (Linux) software RAID 1 configuration for peace of mind. What is your experience of:
(1) Using Linux software RAID 1?
(2) Rebuilding the array in case one of the hard disks has a failure?
I would recommend you to go for fedora or centos as i have been working with those for years and have proven to be very reliable and good working environment :) you may try ubuntu as well, running that on my dedicated server and till now am very happy with it, i can practically work on any facets of it without difficulty
Choice remains yours though,
i would advise you to test these three OS yourself on a WM and see which one suits your needs :)
seriously… i wonder why you would go for linux when you’ve got BSD lying around.
i found for example, FreeBSD easier to understand and work with than with linux [where you’ve got files placed at wrong location and nothing is ever the place it should be].
but if i had to go for a server linux… i’d stick with a debian based! [though me not like ubuntu at all :p].
but hell. a good admin shall be able to deal with any kind of distro :p since, with *nix, there;s always a way to fix things .. no matter how disastrous a situation might look like … 3 cheers for the simplicity of unix … hip hip hip hurray!
Yeah. You’re right. Any free distro will do provided it supports software RAID and LVM well. I’ve settled for Centos because, well, I have been using it for some years on servers…
[By the way, RAID (even RAID 1 aka mirroring) is not a substitute for proper backup. For instance, deleting an important file on a RAID 1 array will delete the file on both disks. If you don’t have a backup then you’re essentially f*cked up.]
Ajay RAMJATAN says
You have till your server is delivered to try FreeBSD and your other favourite Linux distributions on a smaller test computer, experiment and make up your mind. Install the essential services you will be requiring, evaluating how the installation goes, how easy it is to have support in case anything goes wrong and how easy it is to tune things to your liking. Also, intentionally break your system and see how easy it is to recover. Two weeks till your server delivery you say? Good luck.. experience tells me that when they say two weeks, its more like a month ;-)
Ashvin Meetoo says
I’ll go for CentOS 5.2, I have the installation DVD just in case, Fedora becomes a real pain after one year and a month (2×6+1, correct me if i am wrong) since it is no longer supported in terms of updates. I am finding myself with a highly tweaked FC4 mail server that cannot be updated.
I’ve settled for Centos 5.2 both on the server and on some of the desktops because this is the distro which will give me (IMHO) the minimum number of problems in the years to come.
Thanks for your offer. I already have the i386 version on DVD and the 64-bit version on 7 CDs.
Eddy Young says
I would recommend against installing the 64-bit version unless you are after something very specific or do not mind compiling programs by yourself.
I’ve been using 64-bits versions of Linux since March 2005. At the beginning, things were tough as lots of software didn’t work properly. But, now, everything seems to be working well. I have a number of servers working in 64-bits (including noulakaz.net and the CSE department server) and I’ve had no problems at all.
Agreed. All my company servers run 64 bit versions of CentOS 5-5.2 and no issues till now. In fact 64bit applications work better on Linux than Windows. 64bit support has been there in Linux kernel for a while now.
Eddy Young says
I had been running 64-bit Ubuntu on my desktop for some time, too, until I had to install the driver for my Epson scanner which came in 32-bit only. Installing the IA-32 libs did not resolve the problem, and in the end, it took me less time to re-install the 32-bit version of Ubuntu rather than attempting to build from source.
Apparently, Java 6 is not available in 64-bit for Linux. So, if you are planning on using that, you may be out of luck.
Java 6 Update 11 (the latest) is available for 64-bits Linux on Sun’s Java website.
You can also choose to use the community version of Java: OpenJDK which is available via YUM. I run it on 64bit with with CentOS directory services without any issues till now :-) As far as I remember only the plugin for firefox can give you a few headaches.
the price you are going to pay for the dell server, you could get twice the power from that that.
run hardware raid 1 if you insisted or run hardware raid 5 if you are after performance.
at the end of the day your dell is going to be a tuned pc doing server jobs.
N’importe quelle distribution … puis faire:
Suse like: yum apt
Redhat like: rpm -ivh apt
Personnellement je pense que le 64bit c’est bien pour l’application qui font du calcul.
Si c’est pour un serveur web ou mysql qui manipule des data < 2^32 … sinon cela ressemble au gars qui achÃ¨te une porche pour rouler Ã Maurice :)
According to Redhat, software (Linux) RAID 1 outperforms hardware RAID 1 and most benchmarks agree.
As for RAID 5, I don’t need that.
Apt is fantastic. But lately yum has been getting close. I’ll use yum initially and if something goes bad, I’ll switch to apt :-)
hmm, I want to experiment a bit and have some fun.
Is it possible for GRUB to handle multiboot on:
openSuse, Fedora and openSolaris on a same machine?
Is Ashvin Meetoo also a Geek?
Ubuntu Server is being used in many parts of the world and gets full support from Canonical ….why not Ubuntu Server………A user of Ubuntu for the past four years ..for me Ubuntu is the best…..
As a matter of fact, I’ve been using Ubuntu on some servers for some years now and I’ve really been satisfied (thanks to a large measure to apt.) Unfortunately, businesses in Mauritius rely either on Redhat or SuSE i.e. rpm-based distributions and this is what I need to use in order to satisfy my customers :-)
openSUSE 11.1 with KDE 4.1+ rocks!
despite being a fan of Ubuntu for a long time (there’s even ubuntu sticker on my bicycle :D), I think it feels good to migrate on openSUSE.
2009 is here, time for a CHANGE. and change is needed NOW! lol
Ubuntu has a great support, as for Redhat and Suse. Actually it depends what you want to do with your linux server. In the UK all of our load balancers are debian based, slackware as our prefered webnodes and samba filers, only proprietary applics for redhat, and we all use Ubuntu as desktop.. really it’s what you want that counts.. but would never go near to a suse box.. :)
For your Dell 840 server, if you plan to use RAID, so beware of the PERC controller, use suse which is pretty much supported on Dell servers. As they have the inbuild MegaRaid controller driver/ utility which you can monitor the raid A.
Ubuntu you will need to install it manually. RedHat will work as well as its an rpm utility.
This is it and else nothing matters, as all the application will be the same, but my options still remains slackware 12.2 as it has the driver but needed to install the utility manually.. Any ways, good luck with it.
As a matter of fact, the server runs CentOS which works beautifully. Everything was recognised at installation. Like I said before, I am only using Software RAID 1 (mirroring) on the server: it does not have a hardware RAID controller and, so far, everything works well.
Good.. and what do you plan to have on that server?
By the way. I like the the work you are doing in Mauritius with regards to OpenSource. But do not see many enterprise adopting it soon, as the major companies like Blanche Birger, HM and other are mostly to propose Commercial application rather than OpenSource. OpenSource is quite hard to implement in an organisation in Mauritius. More over there is the learning curve, that many people are not willing to adopt. They prefer the easier GUI of windows.. and Unix are more confined to the support. Hope knowledge7 does a good work in converting them, but I am sure there will me more youngsters than elder system eng. to visit you for the course.
My perception is that everyone in Mauritius knows that this “open source software thing” is very important. But as the learning curve is much higher (as you said, it’s not about clicking and hoping…) then few companies have the required expertise. Hence my idea of founding Knowledge Seven Ltd, provider of 100% Open Source Software services to share our expertise with those companies willing to embrace the platforms and technologies many of the big players in the IT industry (including Google, IBM and Oracle) are using now for their mission critical applications.
I don’t know about younger vs older yet. I’ll keep you posted.
A side question: Just wanted to know what the Linux servers at UOM does.
Its interesting to know that there is Linux at UOM. But is it being used? And by how many?
The Computer Science department has one big Linux server (setup by yours truly) running Centos 5.2 and which powers (i) the CSE website (ii) CSE moodle and (iii) postgres which is used internally by around 150 database students for their practicals. The department also has one small backup server in case something bad happens.
Other departments also use Linux in their labs (e.g. electronics) and by their MPhil/PhD students.
I also know that CITS (the IT guys at the UoM) have a certain knowledge of Linux and use it for some of their servers. They even have 1 or 2 Apple Xserve running Mac OS X server there.
Linux in the electronics labs? They had Win 2000 last year & then they got new PCs with Vista Business.
In all the labs I’ve worked, I haven’t seen any Linux distros so far. Even in the computer labs, I usually prefer my livecd if I need to use those virus-infested snails… :)
I have at least one friend there doing his PhD using Linux a lot in the labs.
There is a version of Linux called Fedora Electronic Lab maintained by Chitlesh Goorah, a Mauritian working on the Fedora Project widely used by universities in Europe. http://chitlesh.fedorapeople.org/
Thanks for the link Amit. I know Chitlesh (and Mirjam) well.
Talking of Fedora, I’ve downloaded Fedora 10 x86_64 and installed it at home and I’ve run into two major problems: (i) I use a static IP address and the Fedora graphical network configuration tool (which is one component of NetworkManager) is buggy and wrongly updates /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0 (I had to do it manually) and (ii) package installation is problematic as the tool supplied (which is one component of PackageKit) is very temperamental and sometimes just waits for something to happen (God knows what) instead of doing useful work. Maybe Fedora 10 is too cutting-edge.
My current RPM-based distribution of choice is, guess what, Centos 5.2. It works great. And with EPEL, I have a lot of additional software.
I would also like to point out that I am also a Ubuntu user which also works great :-)
All roaming employees in my company run Fedora 10 x86_64 :-) with encrypted partitions, HSDPA and fingerprint authentication (F11 feature backported) Fedora is cutting edge technology. The problem you are facing is a known issue with package kit subsequently fixed in later updates. Network manager is recommended for roaming users, for desktops/servers it is best to disable the network manager and use the good old network service. Try Fedora with RPMFusion repos or as you said CentOS with EPEL (my choice as well for Servers) I won’t disagree that Ubuntu is good but I prefer RPM/YUM to APT :-)
Useful links for new distribution
Ubuntu is one of my favourite as well. solve loads of issues.
Note that Wikipedia (wikimedia) has migrated to ubuntu. Wikimedia, which previously ran a mix of various versions of Red Hat and Fedora. So better to follow what is making prove of concept.
Good to know about the servers at UOM.
By the way Mauritius Broadcasting has a three 2 node fail over clusters on Redhat AS4, with 60 terminal services. The infrastructure has fail over LAMP and Postfix as mail server. These were implemented by a bunch of university students in 2006.
storage is almost 2TB. It must be well over 3-4TB now. Open Source application called Alya ( build on PHP and MySQL )is driving the Media Library where all the metadata is stored on MySQL. PHP3 did not support much object oriented at that time, so we made all in procedural programing.
Cool hein.. what do you think?
Thanks for the info on what exists at MBC. I’ll have to have a look at it one day. You know someone there? If only the MBC people could use this technology to innovate instead of blindly following the Government dictat.
Amit Caleechurn says
Rightly said +1, these days MBC seems to be obsessed with song competitions :-)
True, we had to fight against the board at that time on how Open Source would help.
But it paid finally.
I resigned from MBC quite a long time ago, or else i would have shown you around.
But you can request an invitation from the IT manager for a visit :)
Enjoy the show :) Its one of the greatest open source work in Mauritius, and we are proud to have do it.
Who’s the IT manager there?
Have you given a try at Server Virtualisation? How did the process go?
I have large implementations of Xen & KVM and with the proper hardware (mainly processors with the right virtualization bits) the results are really impressive.
That’s why I didn’t spend more time with Xen. My server has an Intel E4600 (Core 2 Duo) which lacks the VT-x virtualisation capabilities… Noulakaz.net and Knowledge7.com run on a virtualised server though.
You must be mistaken :-) E4600 has the virtualization flags. You don’t really need virtualization enabled processors for Xen (I have a couple of Sun X2100 servers which run Xen without any issues) but for KVM you really need a VT/SVM enabled processor. KVM is the way to go now with Red Hat’s acquisition of Qumranet and their Solid Ice/Spice Platforms. Xen is very robust too, which is why it has been acquired by Citrix and the same technology powers Microsoft’s hypervisor (mostly engineered by Novell)
I’ll give Xen a try one of these days if you say that it works with my processor. According to Intel’s website, my E4600 does not feature the Intel virtualization technology (compared to, say, the E6300 which does.) I suppose that Xen has a workaround for this maybe at the expense of some performance.
try xen3.0 it does not rely on VT enable processors.
and check (egrep vmx /proc/cpuinfo –color) if vmx is enable then you can you xen4 or VZ, KVM or what ever virtualisation solution you want to use. I have xen3.0 runing on slackware 8.2. Let me know if you need any config checks.
Xen 3 cannot do windows virtualisation, some people claim they did it, but ii doubt it.
We could not, except the mother labs could do it.
The best solution for the moment is vmware server.
Which is free available from http://www.vmware.com/products/server/
It does not need any virtualisation flags on your processor.
But you wont be able to prioritise CPU or jail CPU per VMs.
My colleague is running vmware server on his desktop (dell desktop – dimension 5100) and his hardware does not support paravirtualisation and has an intel
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 15
model : 2
model name : Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 2.40GHz
stepping : 9
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe cid xtpr
root@aquarium:~# ps -ef | grep vmware
root 5406 1 0 Jan29 ? 00:36:27 /usr/sbin/vmware-serverd -s -d
I meant XEN2 all the way – not Xen3 – i’m going mad already.
Thanks Prashant for mentioning virtualization.
I really need to spend some time learning that. It’s the future after all.
Just run into this trail, as I’m preparing to build a virtual server. I just ordred Dell poweadge 410, and would like to build a virtual server. If there is a documentation that exist and show how to build server, appreciate some one point me to it. So, what I want to do is the following – use Centos for mother ware and use KVM for hypervisor and create 4 VMs. Want to stick to freeware where I can. Thanks for the help..
Read the Virtualization Guide from Redhat (it applies 100% to CentOS) and everything should be fine.
where did you get your dell machine from?
Avinash Meetoo says
Hi Yoan. Everyone sell Dell in Mauritius :-)
Personally, I tend to buy from a few reputable resellers.