The polls are closed. The votes have been counted. CentOS hands down wins our Web Server OS poll.
About six weeks ago we offered-up a list of six GNU/Linux distros and asked which you’d choose for your web server if you were limited to the distros on that list. The list was composed of what we’ve found to be the most frequently offered Linux OS choices by web hosting companies for their virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server customers. We offered each of the six in both their 32 bit and 64 bit implementations, which is also usually the case with web hosting companies.
Missing from the list were two distros that are almost exclusively associated with server environments, Red Hat and SUSE Linux Enterprise. They were not included in our list because they’re rarely offered without additional cost by hosting companies because they’re not freely available to download and install.
Despite their absence, Red Hat and SUSE were still very much represented, however. Three of the six distros, CentOS, Scientific Linux and Fedora, in one way or another can be traced directly back to Red Hat. openSUSE was also included, which is the freely available SUSE community distro.
The poll asked the question, “If your hosting company offered a choice of the following operating systems, which would you choose?” Those taking the poll could choose from CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Scientific Linux, openSUSE and Ubuntu.
Voters in this poll could choose only one distro. No “Other” option was offered. All visitors to our site were encouraged to vote, whether they were actively maintaining web servers or not. This was not a poll to determine what distros webmasters who visit our site use, but a more inclusive poll to determine overall web server OS perceptions.
From the time the poll started on June 2 until June 10, voting was limited to one vote per computer through use of a cookie. From June 10 onward, voting was limited both by cookie and by IP address. Voting ended on June 23. A total of 974 votes were cast, making this the second most popular poll we’ve conducted based on voter participation.
It was really no surprise that CentOS received the most votes in this poll by a wide margin. Up until about ten years ago, Red Hat had been the default distro most hosting companies used for their shared hosting plans. That changed, however, after Red Hat modified their business model and quit offering a freely available and downloadable version of their product. Since that time, we’ve noticed that the trend is for shared hosting plans to run on CentOS, a Red Hat clone. It seems only natural that this would carry over to Virtual Private Servers and dedicated servers where the user/lessee is offered a choice of operating systems.
Red Hat, of course, is considered something of the Rock of Gibralter of server operating systems and has a reputation of being both extremely stable and secure. Since CentOS’ mandate is to provide a platform that’s completely compatable with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), they’re able to take advantage and build on that reputation. The developers at CentOS also maintain a close relationship with Red Hat, and official Red Hat security and bug-fix patches are quickly applied to CentOS.
In our poll, the 64 bit version of CentOS was the most popular choice with 343 votes, representing 34% of all votes cast. The 32-bit implementation came-in at sixth place, with 36 votes or 4% of those cast. Combined, CentOS received 379 votes for approximately 39% of the total.
Coming in second place in our poll was the 64-bit implementation of the grand old dame of Linux distros, Debian. This also should come as no surprise, as Debian is perennially the most used distro for web servers on the planet, although CentOS took that crown away from them from 2010 until January of last year. 64-bit Debian took 228 votes or 23% of those cast. 32-bit Debian came in forth place, with 77 votes–8% of the total. Combined, Debian received 305 votes, approximately 31% of those cast.
Ubuntu also made a respectable showing in our poll. 64-bit Ubuntu took third place with 174 votes representing 18% of those cast. 32-bit Ubuntu made a fifth place showing, garnering 39 votes or 4% of the total. Combined, Canonical’s offering received 214 votes for approximately 22%.
All other distros were pretty much relegated into the realm of “also-rans.” The next distro to show was 64-bit openSUSE, in seventh place with only 3% of the vote. Combined with their 32-bit version, openSUSE only took 4% of all votes casts.
Below that was Fedora with 3% of votes cast when both 32-bit and 64-bit are totaled together, followed by Scientific Linux, another respected RHEL clone, with only 1% of the vote.