Best Alternatives to Red Hat Linux

The recent news of IBM’s purchase of Red Hat sent a ripple through the global open source community, sparking fear that it will eventually push either entire Red Hat or at least some of its parts to the scrap heap.

But we’re not here to make educated guesses about the future of the beloved Linux distribution. Instead, we’re here to list the top 5 best alternatives to Red Hat Linux that you can try right now to see what other options are out there.


If there’s one Linux distribution that has led to the creation of more derivatives than Red Hat, it’s Debian. First released in 1993, Debian is an early operating system based on the Linux kernel, and its tremendous success speaks for itself.

Debian has a unique release cycle with three distinct branches: Unstable, Testing, and Stable. As their names suggest, the branches target everyone from those who prefer bleeding-edge software to those who require impeccable stability to meet the needs of enterprise customers. In addition to the three main branches, there are also branches with archived software releases and experimental software.

What separates Debian from many other Linux distributions are the Debian Free Software Guidelines, which are used to determine whether a software license is a free software license. They were created as a reaction to Red Hat never clearly explaining its social contract with the Linux community.

Debian is currently available in 75 languages, and its development is carried out over the internet. You definitely don’t need to worry about Debian being purchased by some big tech company because that would go directly against everything the project stands for.


We’ve mentioned that Debian has led to the creation of a number of derivative Linux distributions, and one of them is Ubuntu. Even though Ubuntu is perhaps best known for its polished user interface and user-friendly desktop features, it’s also an excellent alternative to Red Hat thanks to its server edition, simply called Ubuntu Server.

According to Canonica, a UK-based privately held computer software company founded and funded by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth to market commercial support and related services for Ubuntu and related projects, the server edition of Ubuntu is ready for everything from self-hosted clouds to Hadoop clusters to massive render farms with tens of thousands of nodes.

In addition to Ubuntu Desktop, Ubuntu Server, and Ubuntu Core, which is an edition for Internet of Things devices, there’s a whole host of official derivatives of Ubuntu, including Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu MATE, or Edubuntu, a complete Linux based operating system targeted for primary and secondary education, just to give a few examples.

SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server)

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, or SLES for short, is a Linux-based operating system developed by SUSE for servers, mainframes, and workstations. It was first released in 2000, and there have been seven major versions of SLES released since then.

Unlike Red Hat, which is a massive company with more than 10,000 employees spread all around the world, SUSE has “just” around 1,400 employees, who are mostly based in Germany, USA, Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Italy. But just like Red Hat, SUSE is a generous developer and sponsor of a number of open source projects, including the community-supported openSUSE Project, whose purpose is to develop the openSUSE Linux distribution.

SLES uses the RPM Package Manager (RPM) package management system, originally created for use in Red Hat Linux, and has built several applications on top of it. One such application is package manager engine ZYpp, whose source code is hosted publicly on GitHub.

If you worry that SUSE could be acquired by a large tech company just like Red Hat, we have bad news for you: it already has gone through several acquisitions. The most recent one was announced in July 2018. The current owner of SUSE, Micro Focus, announced that it would sell its SUSE business segment to EQT Partners for $2.5 billion. Fortunately, EQT Partners has promised to let SUSE further build its brand and unique corporate culture as a stand-alone business.

Arch Linux

Arch Linux is everything you want it to be thanks to the design approach of its development team, which is succinctly summarized by the acronym KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

“Relying on complex tools to manage and build your system is going to hurt the end users,” explains Aaron Griffin, the lead developer of Arch Linux. “If you try to hide the complexity of the system, you’ll end up with a more complex system. Layers of abstraction that serve to hide internals are never a good thing. Instead, the internals should be designed in a way such that they need no hiding.”

This rolling-release distribution has become infamous for its console-based installation, but seasoned Red Hat administrators have absolutely nothing to worry about. Thanks to the fantastic package manager that comes with Arch Linux, pacman, installing any of the thousands of officially maintained packages is a breeze. What’s more, Arch Linux users can also install user-produced content hosted in the Arch User Repository, or AUR.


We’re aware that FreeBSD isn’t a Linux distribution, but that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that it’s a fantastic alternative to Red Hat Linux. This direct descendant of BSD was first released in 1993 and has since become the most widely used open-source BSD operating system.

The most important difference between FreeBSD and various Linux distributions is in scope. FreeBSD developers maintain all the individual parts that together make a complete operating system, whereas Linux only maintains a kernel and drivers, relying on third-parties for system software.

FreeBSD uses its own open source license, which imposes very small restrictions on the use and distribution of software. FreeBSD has a large community of dedicated users and developers, giving you one extra reason to give it a try.


Try one of these distribution if you want to diversify away from RedHat.

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