We look at top Linux distributions and compare them on management and security features, as well as performance and their suitability as enterprise-server platforms.
Finding Linux Security Holes
Vendor-by-Vendor View of Security
Up Close With the Distributions
Linux has ensconced itself in many organizations during the past couple of years, based on its reputation of being a reliable workhorse server platform. The little penguin market, driven by Web servers, is actually growing faster than Windows and Unix markets. For IT managers, Linux is an inexpensive, yet reliable, server platform for hosting Web, e-mail and database applications.
Products were installed and evaluated by KeyLabs senior test engineers. Performance metrics were gathered through testing at KeyLabs' facility in Lindon, Utah. Products included are: Caldera OpenLinux Server 3.1.1, Mandrake Linux 8.2, Red Hat Linux 7.3, Slackware 8.0, SuSE 8.0 and Turbolinux 7 Server.
We chose the most current version of each distribution that was publicly available at the time of this review. While most distributions offered more applications from their CD packages, the applications and tools we evaluated came with the downloaded versions.
We generally didn't have any problems installing the Linux distributions on any of our test systems, which ranged from simple desktop PCs to high-end servers. The exception is Slackware, which didn't recognize our Compaq SmartArray controller.
From a performance perspective, we give SuSE the nod. While it didn't excel in any of our performance tests, it was consistently one of the better performers in all of the tests. Red Hat, however, is the unquestioned top performer in both of our throughput tests, but made a disappointing showing in both connection tests. So, while Red Hat would do well as an FTP server, we recommend looking at another distribution for your firewall.
Our overall evaluation ranks Mandrake and SuSE tops. The completeness of their packages and excellent management facilities (DrakX for Mandrake and YaST2 for SuSE) will keep IT administrators' headaches to a minimum. We relegate Slackware to the bottom of the heap, because it requires incredible patience.
Editor's Note: This article, contributed by KeyLabs, extends our Alliance Partners testing program to companies providing product evaluations to VARBusiness. Technology editor David Strom asked KeyLabs, a Utah-based testing firm, to compare several different versions of Linux and determine which version makes the most sense for particular tasks, such as Web, file and security services.
Mark Fincher is senior test lead. Ray Bruni, CISSP, is senior security architect at KeyLabs, a technology assurance solution provider located in Lindon, Utah (www.keylabs.com).