Linux Today

The Top 10 Linux Server Distributions

You know that Linux is a hot data center server. You know that it saves you money in licensing and maintenance costs. But, what are your options for Linux as a server operating system? Listed here are the top ten Linux server distributions -- some of which you may not be aware. The following chararistics, in no particular order, qualified a distribution for inclusion in this list: Ease-of-use, available commercial support and data center reliability.

    • Ubuntu - At the top of almost every Linux-related list, Debian-based Ubuntu is in a class by itself. It surpasses all other distributions from its simple installation to its excellent hardware discovery to its world-class commercial support; Ubuntu leaves the others fumbling in the dusty distance.
    • Red Hat - Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) started out as the "little Linux company that could" and is now a major force in the quest for data center rackspace. The Linux darling of large companies throughout the world, Red Hat's innovations and non-stop support will have you coming back for more.
    • SUSE - Novell-owned SUSE Linux is stable, easy-to-maintain and offers Novell's 24x7 rapid-response support for those who don't have the time or patience for lengthy troubleshooting calls. And, Novell's consulting teams will have you meeting your SLAs and making your accountants happy to boot.
    • Mandriva - For U.S.-based executive or technical folks, Mandriva might be a bit foreign. This incredibly well-constructed Linux distibution hails from France and claims extreme acceptance in Europe and South America. It is, as its website claims, a worldwide Linux provider. Its name and its construction derive from the Mandrake Linux and Connectiva Linux distributions.
    • Xandros - If you prefer a Linux distribution with a Microsoft connection, Xandros is the one for you. Rumors aside, Xandros and Microsoft collaborate in what's known in technical circles as "cooperatition." This means that they compete cooperatively. To find out more about this unique perspective, check out the Xandros About page.
    • Slackware - While not generally associated with commercial distributions, Slackware maintains relationships with several companies that provide fee-based support. One of the earliest available distributions, Slackware has an extensive and faithful fan base. Its developers regularly release new versions.
    • Debian - If you're confused by Debian's inclusion here, don't be. Debian doesn't have formal commercial support but you can connect with Debian-savvy consultants around the world via their Consultants page. Debian has spawned more child distributions than any other parent distribution including Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Vyatta.
    • Vyatta - Vyatta is more at home on routers and firewalls than PC-based systems but if you want a commercially-driven distribution for those applications, Vyatta works well for your secure communications needs. Check out the free version of Vyatta Linux.
    • CentOS - It's true that CentOS isn't strictly commercial but since it's based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you can leverage commercial support for it. CentOS has its own repositories and community support and is not the same as Fedora Linux.
    • Unbreakable Linux - Oracle's Unbreakable Linux is Red Hat Enterprise Linux with some Oracle logos and art. Oracle competes directly with Red Hat with their distribution and quite effectively, since purchased support through Oracle is half the price of Red Hat's equivalent model.

Unix History

Since it began to escape from AT&T's Bell Laboratories in the early 1970's, the success of the UNIX operating system has led to many different versions: recipients of the (at that time free) UNIX system code all began developing their own different versions in their own, different, ways for use and sale. Universities, research institutes, government bodies and computer companies all began using the powerful UNIX system to develop many of the technologies which today are part of a UNIX system.
Computer aided design, manufacturing control  systems, laboratory simulations, even the Internet itself, all began life with and because of UNIX systems. Today, without UNIX systems, the Internet would come to a screeching halt. Most telephone calls could not be made, electronic commerce would grind to a halt and there would have never been "Jurassic Park"!
By the late 1970's, a ripple effect had come into play. By now the under- and post-graduate students whose lab work had pioneered these new applications of technology were attaining management and decision-making positions inside the computer system suppliers and among its customers. And they wanted to continue using UNIX systems.
Soon all the large vendors, and many smaller ones, were marketing their own, diverging, versions of the UNIX system optimized for their own computer architectures and boasting many different strengths and features. Customers found that, although UNIX systems were available everywhere, they seldom were able to interwork or co-exist without significant investment of time and effort to make them work effectively. The trade mark UNIX was ubiquitous, but it was applied to a multitude of different, incompatible products.
In the early 1980's, the market for UNIX systems had grown enough to be noticed  by industry analysts and researchers. Now the question was no longer "What is a UNIX system?" but "Is a UNIX system suitable for business and commerce?"
Throughout the early and mid-1980's, the debate about the strengths and weaknesses of UNIX systems raged, often fuelled by the utterances of the vendors themselves who sought to protect their profitable proprietary system sales by talking UNIX systems down. And, in an effort to further differentiate their competing UNIX system products, they kept developing and adding features of their own.
In 1984, another factor brought added attention to UNIX systems. A group of vendors concerned about the continuing encroachment into their markets and control of system interfaces by the larger companies, developed the concept of "open systems."
Open systems were those that would meet agreed specifications or standards. This resulted in the formation of X/Open Company Ltd whose remit was, and today in the guise of The Open Group remains, to define a comprehensive open systems environment. Open systems, they declared, would save on costs, attract a wider portfolio of applications and competition on equal terms. X/Open chose the UNIX system as the platform for the basis of open systems.
Although UNIX was still owned by AT&T, the company did little commercially with it until the mid-1980's. Then the spotlight of X/Open showed clearly that a single, standard version of the UNIX system would be in the wider interests of  the industry and its customers. The question now was, "which version?".
In a move intended to unify the market in 1987, AT&T announced a pact with Sun Microsystems, the leading proponent of the Berkeley derived strain of UNIX. However, the rest of the industry viewed the development with considerable concern. Believing that their own markets were under threat they clubbed together to develop their own "new" open systems operating system. Their new organization was called the Open Software Foundation (OSF). In response to this, the AT&T/Sun faction formed UNIX International.
The ensuing "UNIX wars" divided the system vendors between these two camps clustered around the two dominant UNIX system technologies: AT&T's System V and the OSF system called OSF/1. In the meantime, X/Open Company held the center ground. It continued the process of standardizing the APIs necessary for an open operating system specification.
In addition, it looked at areas of the system beyond the operating system level where a standard approach would add value for supplier and customer alike, developing or adopting specifications for languages, database connectivity, networking and mainframe interworking. The results of this work were published in successive X/Open Portability Guides.
XPG 4 was released in October 1992. During this time, X/Open had put in place a brand program based on vendor guarantees and supported by testing. Since the publication of XPG4, X/Open has continued to broaden the scope of open systems specifications in line with market requirements. As the benefits of the X/Open brand became known and understood, many large organizations began using X/Open as the basis for system design and procurement. By 1993, over $7 billion had been spent on X/Open branded systems. By the start of 1997 that figure has risen to over $23 billion. To date, procurements referencing the Single UNIX Specification amount to over $5.2 billion.
In early 1993, AT&T sold it UNIX System Laboratories to Novell which was looking for a heavyweight operating system to link to its NetWare product range. At the same time, the company recognized that vesting control of the definition (specification) and trademark with a vendor-neutral organization would further facilitate the value of UNIX as a foundation of open systems. So the constituent parts of the UNIX System, previously owned by a single entity are now quite separate
In 1995 SCO bought the UNIX Systems business from Novell, and UNIX system source code and technology continues to be developed by SCO.
In 1995 X/Open introduced the UNIX 95 brand for computer systems guaranteed to meet the Single UNIX Specification. The Single UNIX Specification brand program has now achieved critical mass: vendors whose products have met the demanding criteria now account for the majority of UNIX systems by value.
For over ten years, since the inception of X/Open, UNIX had been closely linked with open systems. X/Open, now part of The Open Group, continues to develop and evolve the Single UNIX Specification and associated brand program on behalf of the IT community. The freeing of the specification of the interfaces from the technology is allowing many systems to support the UNIX philosophy of small, often simple tools , that can be combined in many ways to perform often complex tasks. The stability of the core interfaces preserves existing investment, and is allowing development of a rich set of software tools. TheOpen Source movement is building on this stable foundation and is creating a resurgence of enthusiasm for the UNIX philosophy. In many ways Open Source can be seen as the true delivery of Open Systems that will ensure it continues to go from strength to strength.

Install and use Wine

How to install and use Wine to run Windows applications/programs within Linux (Ubuntu)

Microsoft: 'We love open source'

Everyone in the Linux world remembers Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's famous comment that Linux is a "cancer" that threatened Microsoft's intellectual property.
Ballmer is still CEO of Microsoft, but that comment occurred in 2001, a lifetime ago in the technology market. While Microsoft hasn't formally rescinded its declaration that Linux violates its patents, at least one Microsoft executive admits that the company’s earlier battle stance was a mistake. Microsoft wants the world to understand, whatever its issues with Linux, it no longer has any gripe toward open source.
In 2010 Microsoft is trying hard not to be public enemy No. 1 to open source proponents, in some cases by making key contributions to open source code and in other cases by making Microsoft products interoperable with open source software.
"We love open source," says Jean Paoli of Microsoft in a recent interview with Network World. "We have worked with open source for a long time now."
The mistake of equating all open source technology with Linux was "really very early on," Paoli says. "That was really a long time ago," he says. "We understand our mistake."
Paoli is the general manager of Microsoft's interoperability strategy team, which touches on some open source issues. A Microsoft veteran of 14 years, Paoli is also the co-creator of the XML specification.
Paoli's recent work involves a new Microsoft initiative to promote interoperability among the key components of cloud networks. The initiative, described in July at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, is attempting to promote data portability; use of standards-based technologies; ease of migration and deployment across cloud networks; and developer choice. 
The initiative isn't strictly an open source project but it does illustrate Microsoft’s evolving relationship with open technologies.Microsoft seems to be making a concerted effort to befriend portions of the open source community, and the company could benefit in the public relations game from unpopular moves by Oracle, which is ending the OpenSolaris projectand suing Google over use of open source Java in Android. 
There are still critics of Microsoft's attitude toward open source, and Microsoft gave itself a black eye in 2007 by claiming that Linux and other open source software violate a whopping235 Microsoft patents. And in 2008, Bill Gates reportedly claimed that open source licenses ensure "that nobody can ever improve the software."  
Microsoft also launched a patent lawsuit against GPS vendor TomTom last year, forcing TomTom to pay Microsoft licensing fees, and was able to force HTC to pay it royalties over use of Android.

Microsoft embraces "mixed IT"

But Paoli says Microsoft recognizes that its customers use a mix of proprietary and open source technologies.
Microsoft has released some technology under its own open source license (the "Microsoft Public License"), such as IronRuby, which integrates .Net code with the Ruby programming language.