Red Hat Holds Top Linux Hosting Spot

Research firm Netcraft is out with its latest Linux statistics, which said Red Hat is the dominant Linux distribution in the hosting industry.

The results come from Netcraft’s hosting provider switching analysis. Netcraft said it showed that Red Hat holds 49.8 percent market share, which is actually down by 1 percent from its January survey. At that time, it counted Red Hat as holding 50.8 percent of the hosting market.

Cobalt, the back-up server system recently open-sourced by Sun Microsystems , held the number two spot in Netcraft’s numbers with a 20.8 percent market share, which is down about a half percent from six months ago.

Community-driven Linux distribution provider Debian held on to the third spot with a 15.9 percent market share rating, up a half percentage point.

Novell’s SUSE Linux ranked fourth in the survey at 11.8 percent
market share, thought it gained just under 1 percentage point from the previous survey. Still, this time, it showed a growth rate of 15.6 percent.

For Netcraft, the fastest growing distribution this time around is Gentoo Linux, which showed a rate of 49.5 percent. But that’s growth toward a 1 percent market share.

In the January survey Debian was reported as the fastest growing distribution at 24.6 percent.

But that Gentoo showed up in the numbers is a sign it is enjoying more interest among users.

“While Gentoo is obviously the underdog in terms of market share, the rapid growth rate is representative of the fact that Gentoo is becoming more and more acceptable as a server system,” Jon Portnoy, head of Gentoo developer relations, told

“Traditionally, Gentoo was a very desktop-oriented distribution, and we’re all glad our efforts to improve quality and provide an excellent secure server environment are paying off,” he said.

But industry observers note that Netcraft’s numbers need to be viewed within context, since they are by no means considered complete numbers or stats on the Linux industry as a whole.

For example, Red Hat recently reported an
of 98,000 subscriptions. Less than 24 percent of those were for the hosting business. Enterprise IT deployments, which are not measured in the Netcraft survey, represented the lion’s share of Red Hat’s numbers.

Furthermore, by Netcraft’s own admission, among their hosting survey base, just over 25 percent of hosts actually provide a distribution name. Indeed, it is considered fairly common practice for Web administrators to disable an OS/Linux distribution name reporting from inside the Apache http.conf file. One of the reasons generally given for disabling distribution reporting is so that malicious network scanners won’t have an easy time of exploiting systems, by simply noting the OS and version number and then looking for vulnerabilities specific to the reported version.

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