If you’re planning on using Linux to run your server, then you’ve an impressive array of different distributions to choose from. In truth, there are so many distros that it can get a touch overwhelming. Faced with such variety, how can you determine which choice is the correct one?
It starts with knowledge. Each Linux distribution is best suited for a particular brand of computing – and each distro has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding those benefits and shortcomings is the key to making an informed decision.
We’ll help you along. Today, we’ll be focusing on CentOS.
An open-source version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS is pretty much everything you’d expect of an enterprise distro, yet it remains open-source. Developed and designed to be fundamentally similar to Red Hat, CentOS runs only the most stable versions of packaged software. This greatly reduces the risk of crashes and errors.
Users who install CentOS also gain access to up to a decade’s worth of enterprise-level security updates – owing to its close link with Red Hat. What this means is that CentOS is equipped with a wide array of impressive security features, including an incredibly powerful firewall and the SELinux policy mechanism. Factor in the increased stability enjoyed by the distribution, and it becomes an even more attractive choice.
Of course, all of this comes with a price. CentOS’s primary weakness is that it tends to be less feature-rich than its peers. Although this is mitigated somewhat by the ability to add third-party repositories, it is nevertheless saddled with a rather cumbersome development cycle. The update cycle for other distributions ranges between eighteen months and three years; CentOS sees a new major release every three to five years.
Due to its release cycle, CentOS also tends to be somewhat limited in terms of software compatibility. Newer software isn’t as likely to be supported by the operating system.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that CentOS doesn’t necessarily need new releases as often. The platform’s superior stability means that it encounters fewer bugs and security holes than other distributions on the market, while also being able to run longer without requiring any new hardware upgrades. Whether or not this is a worthwhile trade-off is entirely up to the client. It’s not a question we can answer here.
If you’re looking to run Linux, you’ve an impressive selection of distributions to choose from. It’s more than a little overwhelming – which is why it’s imperative that you know the strengths and weaknesses of each. While CentOS boasts superior reliability, speed, and stability; the trade-off is that it can’t necessarily do as much as its peers; nor does it receive a new release as often.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, fast, and reliable operating system for your server – and compatibility is no object – you couldn’t do much better.