Why Debian is our post CentOS distro choice

It’s been a little over half a year since the announcement by RedHat that they would be ending support for CentOS as we knew it, and server admins and hosting companies all over the world started looking for migration solutions.

There are a lot of options out there, in fact there are about 500 actively maintained Linux distributions, but we can quickly dismiss a massive number of those as potential server operating systems for various reasons.

First off, we are only interested in open source software, it’s been at the centre of our ethos since the beginning but is something that we are becoming more and more focused on. Where that can be open source projects that are run by foundations or other communities without being dependent on or owned by a commercial company then so much the better.

Of the bigger distributions that remain, we can rule out some like ArchLinux and Gentoo because they use a rolling release model, which means they are always on the sharp edge of tech but they also suffer the same security and stability issues that simply switching to CentOS Stream would.

The simplest thing by far would be to migrate to another RHEL based distribution, either CentOS Stream (which isn’t a great idea for production servers for reasons we already covered), AlmaLinux, RockyLinux, or one of several others. Of those we think that AlmaLinux is the best choice for a huge number of reasons that I’m not going to go into here, but if you are looking for a 1:1 RHEL binary compatible Linux distribution, it’s the way to go.

Another option would be OpenSUSE Leap, which is one of our two favourite Linux distributions in the world right now, partially because of the Zypper package manager and YaST, but also because it’s a great open source community member. It’s well managed and the SUSE team are one of the biggest contributors to the Linux kernel.

Then there is Ubuntu, which is the most widely used server distribution in the world right now. There is nothing wrong with Ubuntu, in fact we currently run our mail servers on it, but if we are going to go in that direction, then surely it makes sense to go the whole way and migrate things to the distribution that Ubuntu is based on, which brings us to Debian.

Debian is…

Along with our passion about open source, we care about stability and security. They are two of the S’s that make up our company name.

Debian is probably the most stable and secure Linux distribution out of the box, it’s incredibly stable and reliable due to the release model and extensive testing that takes place before anything makes it into the ‘stable’ branch. Of course, it’s easy for anyone to add their own repositories and destroy that, but we will try not to.

Speaking of repositories, Debian takes a strict stance on free software, and there are no proprietary software packages at all in a default Debian installation. This fits well with our open source and FOSS ideals.

Debian is lighter than Ubuntu with less software installed by default. While this can make setting things up a bit trickier or more time consuming, it also means that it installs less stuff that you don’t need, which means less resource uses, a plus because it makes a faster more responsive system as well as being better for the environment by using less power.

Finally, one of the biggest reasons is the principles that govern how Debian is created and controlled. They like to say that ‘Debian is not only a Linux operating system but a community’. The Debian community is consensus driven and has a democratic governance structure. Since all Debian developers have equal rights it cannot be controlled by a single company, which means that it can’t go the same way as CentOS recently did.

So, Debian meats our all of our criteria better than anything else out there, and over the next weeks we will be transitioning all of our CentOS based servers over to it, as one of the first stages on our new tech roadmap.

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