5 top Linux server distros: How to choose the right one

What you need to know to choose among Ubuntu LTS, Oracle Linux, Fedora Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Enterprise Server

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More and more networking pros need to familiarize themselves with Linux because the operating system underpins so many enterprise tools and platforms including software-defined networking and SD-WANs, cloud networking, network automation, and configuration management.

And in the decades since it was first introduced, the number of distributions of Linux has blossomed as developers create versions that meet the needs of specific interest groups. While all the versions share a common core, they each have distinguishing characteristic suited to designated purposes.

This article takes a look at five of them – Debian, Fedora, CentOS, RHEL, and Ubuntu - how to acquire and install them, and an assessment of what they might best be suited for.

Distro similarities

All Linux distributions use the Linux kernel and benefit from updates that are made to the operating system core software and processes.  They all use standard Linux commands like cd, ls, rm, and cp to navigate the directory structure. They also include many familiar commands like find, grep, tail, more, cat, and ps.  All Linux versions have similar commands to add and remove users, move files around, and interact with external devices with device drivers. The Linux community has also standardized on LibreOffice as the productivity suite, which often comes installed by default.

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