Linux Distribution Comparison

At Slicehost we offer a variety of Linux distributions and, although you are free to reinstall with a different distribution at any time, it can be a little confusing.

Let's have a look at the basics of each distribution.


Preference

We all know that friendships have been lost and many a heated word has been said over which distribution is the best.

I do not intend to go down that route and we, at Slicehost, do not have a preferred distribution or setup that we particularly recommend over another.

Basics

Things to look for in your choice may include:

Support life: how long it will receive security updates

Package Manager: aptitude, yum, emerge, etc.

Package versions: you need xxxxx. Does Distro xxxx provide it?

Community: is it well documented? Can you find help easily?

Familiarity: have you used Linux before? It may help sticking with the familiar.

Of course, there are a thousand and one things you can take into account when selecting your Slice distribution. I hope this, and the matrix shown below, simply make the choice easier.

Comparison

Included below are some basic details of each distribution. I have broken them into 'deb', 'rpm' and 'other' bases for easy reference.

Where I am unable to confirm a detail I have inserted a question mark (?). If you are able to help out, with reference(s), then I would be delighted.

For many items, there are alternatives: I've used base repositories and settings.

'deb' based distributions

Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper) Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy) Ubuntu 8.04.1 (Hardy) Debian Etch (4.0)
Support Date Apr 2011 Apr 2009 Apr 2013 2009
Package Manager apt-get (deb) aptitude (deb) aptitude (deb) aptitude (deb)
 
Apache 2.0.55 2.2.4 2.2.8 2.2.3
Nginx - 0.5.26 0.5.33 0.4.13-2
 
PHP 5.1.2 5.2.3 5.2.4 5.2.0
Perl 5.8.7 5.8.8 5.8.8 5.8.8
Ruby 1.8.4 1.8.6-p36 1.8.6-p111 1.8.5
 
MySQL 5.0.21 5.0.45 5.0.51a 5.0.32
Postgres' 8.1.3 8.2.5 8.3.1 8.1.8
 
Postfix 2.2.10 2.4.5 2.5.1 2.3.8
Subv'n 1.3.1 1.4.4 1.4.6 1.4.2
 
Web Site Link Link Link Link


'rpm' based distributions

CentOS 5.2 FC 9
Support Date 2014 ?
Package Manager yum (rpm) yum (rpm)
 
Apache 2.2.8 2.2.8
Nginx - ?
 
PHP 5.1.6 5.2.5
Perl 5.8.8 5.10.0
Ruby 1.8.5 1.8.6-p230
 
MySQL 5.0.45 5.0.51a
Postgres' 8.1.11 8.3.1
 
Postfix 2.3.3 2.5.1
Subv'n 1.4.2 1.4.6
 
Web Site Link Link


Other distributions

Gentoo and Arch Linux are special cases as they do not really have 'versions' in the traditional sense: Both are 'rolling' distributions and a simple 'update world' or 'pacman -Syu' will often provide newer package versions than shown above.

Gentoo Linux Arch Linux
Support Date not versioned not versioned
Package Manager emerge (source) pacman
 
Apache 2.0.58 ?
Nginx 0.5.26 ?
 
PHP 5.2.2 5.2.6
Perl 5.8.8 5.10.0
Ruby 1.8.5-p2 1.8.7-p22
 
MySQL 5.0.38 5.0.60
Postgres' 8.0.13 8.3.3
 
Postfix 2.3.6 2.5.2
Subv'n 1.3.2 1.4.6
 
Web Site Link Link


Version Specifics

Do refer to the distribution Home Pages for full details and documentation relating to that distro as each one has it's own defaults and way of completing tasks.

Summary

I hope this small comparison page helps in making any decision as to what distro to go with. You are always free to come into the support rooms and chatrooms and ask which is better but be warned: it can produce heated debate.

PickledOnion.

P.S. If you want a specific package comparison, then let me know and I can add it to the matrix.

Article Comments:

Ken commented Mon Nov 05 20:02:04 UTC 2007:

PickledOnion,

I was the one who originally requested this. Thank you for following up! This is very helpful. I still don't have a Slice and I guess it's kinda looking like I never will but this will definitely be handy for those people who are lucky enough get one. For me - well, I'm just going to have to go on a search for the next best VPS hosting provider... I know - nobody compares...

PickledOnion commented Tue Nov 06 07:56:45 UTC 2007:

Hey Ken,

I hope it's useful to you and others.

With regard to getting a Slice. We have started to send out invites now the backend is nicely bedded in and working well.

The wait list should drop very quickly now.

PickledOnion.

FiXato commented Wed Nov 14 15:54:52 UTC 2007:

Nice article that gives a handy overview :) Thanks

As for the Support Date of CentOS5, centosian pointed out in chat that it should be supported atleast until 2014.

From a Linux.com article:

The key advantages of CentOS over other server-type distributions, apart from its free nature (as in both speech and beer), is its rock-solid reliability and the long lifecycle of the product. The CentOS project expects to supply maintenance updates for Centos 3 until 2010 and for CentOS 4 until 2012. Projecting this forward, maintenance for CentOS 5 should be active until at least 2014.

.

PickledOnion commented Wed Nov 14 16:00:31 UTC 2007:

Hi Fixato,

Thanks for the link. I will do some more research to confirm that is actually security updates until 2014 but that looks like a good lead.

Cheers,

PickledOnion.

FiXato commented Wed Nov 14 16:11:17 UTC 2007:

Also from their official FAQ/wiki:

How long will CentOS 5 be supported?

We intend to support CentOS 5 until Mar 31st, 2014 The current plan is this:

Full Updates (including hardware updates): Currently to Mar 31st, 2010

Maintenance Updates Apr 1st, 2010 - Mar 31st, 2014 Full Updates During the Full Updates phase, new hardware support will be provided at the discretion of CentOS via Update Sets. Additionally, all available and qualified errata will be provided via Update Sets (or individually {and immediately} for Security level errata.) Update Sets normally will be released 2-4 times per year, with new ISOs released as part of each Update Set. In the 5.x numbering scheme, the .x is the number of the Update Set.

Maintenance Updates During the Maintenance updates phase, only Security errata and select mission critical bug fixes will be released. There will be few, if any, Update Sets released.

Again, thanks to centosian for the info :)

PickledOnion commented Wed Nov 14 16:13:44 UTC 2007:

Excellent, thanks very much for that.

I will update the table.

PickledOnion.

10drill commented Mon Nov 19 13:31:18 UTC 2007:

As PickledOnion stated, Gentoo "will often provide newer package versions than shown above". If you are choosing your distribution based on package version numbers, Gentoo will always have the latest version of pretty much anything available (and usually stable) long before other distributions. For example, the current stable Apache version for Gentoo now is 2.2.6, which none of the other distributions listed currently offer.

trnsfrmr commented Wed Feb 13 15:26:13 UTC 2008:

Can we install RHEL (RedHat Enterprise Linux) or SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server) on our Slices?

yogi commented Sat Aug 09 01:37:10 UTC 2008:

It may help to also post the version of Python each distro comes with.

Matt Donovan commented Sun Jan 18 01:07:42 UTC 2009:

Can we install RHEL (RedHat Enterprise Linux) or SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server) on our Slices?

Ramsey Nasser commented Fri May 22 17:22:49 UTC 2009:

I run arch linux at home, and a peek into pacman shows that Apache 2.2.11-3 and Nginx 0.6.36-3 are available.

Great article, onion!

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