RedHat vs Debian : Administrative Point of View

There are hundreds of Linux distributions available, for free (in the other sense). Every Linux Enthusiast has a special taste for certain distribution, at some point of time. The taste for specific distribution largely depends upon the intended area of application. Some the famous Linux distributions and its area of application are listed below.

RedHat vs Debian
RedHat vs Debian: Administrative Point of View
  1. Fedora: Cutting Edge Technology Implementation
  2. RedHat and Debian Server
  3. Ubuntu: one of the Introductory distro for Newbies
  4. Kali and Backtrack: Penetration Testing, etc.

Well this article aims to compare RedHat (Fedora, CentOS) and Debian (Ubuntu) from an administrator point of view. RedHat is a commercial Linux Distribution, which is most widely used on a number of servers, across the world. Fedora is the testing laboratory of RedHat which is well known for its bleeding edge technology implementation, which is released every six month.

Here the question is when there are hundreds of Linux distribution available for free (in either sense, open-source and economic), why would someone invest hundreds of bucks in buying a Linux Distribution, making RedHat so much successful. Well the answer is RedHat is very much stable.

The life cycle is of about ten years and after all there is someone to be blamed if something doesn’t work, the corporate culture. CentOS is another distribution which is RedHat minus Non-Free packages. CentOs is a stable distribution hence latest version of all packages is pushed into its RPM after testing, the focus remains on stability of distribution.

Debian on the other hand is a Linux distribution which is very much stable and contains very large number of packages into its repository. Any other distribution that comes close to Debian at this point is Gentoo. On my Debian server (Squeeze), which is a bit outdated.

[email protected]:/home/avi# apt-cache stats 

Total package names: 37544 (751 k) 
Total package structures: 37544 (1,802 k)

You see packages more than 37.5K! Everything you need is present in the repository itself. The package manager Apt is too smart to resolve all the dependency problem itself. Very rarely a Debian user requires to download and install dependency manually. Debian is built with a number of package manager which makes package management a cake walk.

Ubuntu which is a Linux distribution for newbies. A newbie Linux Enthusiast is suggested to start with Ubuntu in most of the Linux forum. Ubuntu maintains a simple and user-friendly interface, which gives a feeling of Windows like OS to a new user.

Debian is the base of Ubuntu, but their repository varies. Ubuntu contains newer updated packages and is still stable. In-fact Ubuntu is highly appreciated by newbies as well as advanced users.

Taking the above description into the next stage by presenting them in a point-wise fashion for better understanding and reference, here we go.

1. RedHat is Most Widely used Distribution for servers.
Debian is widely used Distribution next to RedHat.

2. RedHat is Commercial Linux Distribution.
Debian is Non-commercial Linux Distribution.

3. RedHat contains roughly 3000 packages.
Latest Debian Release (Wheezy) contains well over 38000 packages.

It means Debian contains nearly 80% more packages than RedHat and this is the reason Debian contains packages like openoffice, Transmission bittorrent client, mp3 codecs, etc which a RedHat like distribution lacks and is required to be installed manually or from 3rd party repository.

4. RedHat bug fixing takes considerable time, since it is controlled by a small group of people-RedHat Employee.
Bug fixing in Debian is very much quick as people all around the globe from Debian community, working from different geographical location simultaneously fixes it.

5. RedHat don’t release package updates, till next release, means you have to wait for the next release be it minor.
Debian community believes – software is a continuous evolution process, hence updates are released on Daily Basis.

6. RedHat releases major updates every six month and nothing in between. Installing new updates in RedHat based System is a tuff task, where you need to reinstall everything.
Installing the Debian updates being released everyday is a pretty easy task barely 3-4 clicks away.

7. RedHat is rock solid stable distribution released after continuous testing.
Debian contains packages from stable, unstable and testing Repository. Stable contains rock solid stable release packages. Unstable contains more updated packages ready to be pushed into stable repository. Testing contains packages already tested and marked safe.

8. RedHat package manager Yum is less mature and is not able to solve dependencies automatically, many a times.
Debian package manager Apt is very mature and solve dependency automatically, most of the times.

9. Installing VLC in RedHat Beta Release 6.1, is a very difficult task which requires installing tens of packages manually.
In Debian it is as simple as apt-get install vlc*

10. Debian is intelligent in differentiating Configuration files with other files. This makes upgradation easy. The virgin (untouched) configuration files are updated automatically and the one modified, requires users interaction as the package manager ask what to do, but this is not the case with RedHat.

11. RedHat uses the rpm packages.
Debian uses the deb packages.

12. RedHat uses the RPM package manager.
Debian uses the dpkg package manager.

13. RedHat uses the yum dependency resolver.
Debian uses the apt-get dependency resolver.

14. Fedora uses single global repository which contains free software’s only.
Debian contains contribute and Non-free repository along with free software repository.

15. According to Wikipedia, Ubuntu is a based on the unstable branch of Debian but Fedora is not a derivative and has a more direct relationship and stays close to many upstream projects.

16. Fedora uses ‘su‘ whereas Ubuntu uses ‘sudo‘ by default.

17. Fedora ships with SELinux installed and enabled by default along with some other ‘hardening’ software to make things more secure by default, unlike Debian.

18. Debian is a community based distribution, unlike RedHat.

19. Security is one of the most important issue for both RedHat and Debian.

20. Fedora, CentOs, Oracle Linux are among those distribution developed around RedHat Linux and is a variant of RedHat Linux.
Ubuntu, Kali, etc are few of the variant of Debian. Debian truly is a mother distribution of a number of Linux Distro.

21. Installation, of RedHat is little easy to install as compared to Debian. Internet Connection during RedHat installation is option. Internet connection during Debian Installation is optional but recommended. Moreover till squeeze, one needs to acquire WEP key, to use wifi network (installation). WEP Is not used these days and this is painful during installation of Debian, before wheezy. Wheezy supports both WEP ans WPA.

My Prespective

I have used RedHat Enterprise Linux (Beta), Fedora, Centos, Debian and Ubuntu for years. Being a Linux professional Fedora’s unstability didn’t suit me. CentOs was a good option but resolving dependency manually and reinstalling everything after upgrade was a bad idea form me and my team’s point of view.

RedHat was very stable but afterall my company didn’t like the idea of spending thousands of bucks for RedHat Enterprise Edition and getting outdated software.

Ubuntu seems too much childish to me to be used in servers of the Organization handling critical data.

One of my colleague suggested me with slack, Mint, etc but after all how many server runs on slack and Mint in the world? Debian my favorite distribution suited my organization very well. Now most of my server are running Debian and I didn’t repent this, Indeed Implementing Debian at my workplace was a very cool idea.

You may disagree with my point of view but you can’t escape the truth, as stated above. This article aims to throw light on the fact and not controversy. Every distribution has it’s pros and cons. All the Linux distribution available today are surviving because they have a supportive community and user group, which we respect.

That’s all for now. We tried to provide you with the relevant information, in a nice format. Don’t forget to provide us with your valuable comments and suggestion, which is highly appreciated. I will soon be coming up with another Interesting article. Till then stay tuned and connected to for latest news on FOSS and Linux.

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108 thoughts on “RedHat vs Debian : Administrative Point of View”

  1. In Debian, packages from unstable (Sid) are pushed to testing ( next stable release). After ten present more days without any report of bugs in the package or with any other packages is accepted in testing branch.

    Stable is not updated except from bug or security fixes.

  2. This article is a bit outdated, nowadays RHEL (and its free version – Centos) are very mature, and are greatly suited for an enterprise deployments.

    Yet it’s true, that Fedora based distros (or RHEL & Centos that are the server versions) are a bit more cumbersome compared to Ubuntu, but once again – I would prefer them over Debian family..

  3. There is plenty of useful information here, especially regarding repositories and dependency resolution.

    As others have pointed out, su and sudo are two completely different animals and they are both used in RHEL and Debian alike.

    Ubuntu is not “childish”, it just comes packaged with things that are usually not installed in a server environment. However, there is a server version of Ubuntu (Ubuntu Server) that is fantastic. If your server will stand alone, Ubuntu Server is the way to go, imho. If you are creating a clustered environment for parallel computing, Centos or RHEL are probably better choices.

  4. 16. Fedora uses ‘su‘ whereas Ubuntu uses ‘sudo‘ by default.

    That’s wrong. Fedora uses ‘su‘ and Ubuntu uses ‘su‘. Fedora also uses ‘sudo‘ and Ubuntu also uses ‘sudo

    su‘ means like switch user, you can do ‘su username‘ to switch which works on both.

    and, I would never use Debian as a server. It must be Centos and Redhat.

    For applications, I always go with Debian.

    So, Frontends are always RHEL variant, Backends are always Debian variant for me.

    I wouldn’t try to set up 3rd party apps on Enterprise distros; they were born to be the server, not to be workstations.

    I also wouldn’t compile sources in RHEL variant; I got Ubuntu on that.
    And all of my client’s software, backends are all Debian & Ubuntu.

    Debian vs Redhat, they both have unique roles in the commercial business.

    RHEL fulfill the companies.
    Debian satisfies the end-users.

    So now it is all about containers. I will go for Kubernette; so now you already know my desktop is Fedora.

    • “16. Fedora uses su… by default.” Maybe this meant something when the article was first published in 2013? I’m not sure that it’s necessarily “wrong,” just not applicable. Yes containers are where it’s at, and everything written about apt, yum and rpm in the article is outdated.

      The one situation I might pay attention to the package manager is pacman, and the AUR, specifically BlackArch versus Kali. Kali is great for certification. It is becoming to “ethical hacking” what Red Hat became to Linux certification.

      Arch and derivatives are impressive for other reasons, I just don’t hear about them out in the wild much and I think would reflect better on penetration testers. I just can’t help but think Kali is too easy for newbies to latch onto.

      I also think the part about RH being commercial and Debian being non-commercial is understated in the article. Some of the other arguments seem a little arbitrary. You can make Red Hat, Debian, or Ubuntu work in any role if you really need to. Tell your non-technical supervisor it’s all Linux.

    • Ok…

      Well in the cloud world of 2018 Ubuntu is pretty much on spot with the increasing demands for devops.

      In our enterprise we use Ubuntu servers and I can say for certain we have a better time configuring and maintaining the machines as oppose to administrators that use Linux like in the old days…

      I don’t know what you are trying to prove your point to with “never using Ubuntu on servers”, Ubuntu is the best at the moment… Unless you need constant support.


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