Prejudices and opinions aside, at some point in your career you'll be asked to select a viable Linux distribution for your corporate network. How will you choose? Will you use the same distribution that you use at home or will you do some research and find something that's corporate-ready? Are you up to the task? Do you know what to look for in a distribution to support a corporate environment?
Here are 5 ways to decide on a Linux distribution for your corporate network.
1. Commercial Support - This is a sore subject among some Linux types since most believe they can solve any foreseeable problem or glitch that happens. When you're dealing with multiple--possibly hundreds--server systems, sometimes you need help, you need it fast and you need to have it setup and ready before you need it. Your distribution should be backed by a stable company--a community just won't do when you're faced with a major outage situation and the clock is ticking and you don't have time to troll forums or "google" for an answer.
2. Multiple Repositories - A repository is how apt-get, yum, smart and other repository querying tools reach out and grab updates and new software for your distribution. Most distributions do have multiple repositories, however, I think that if one were to count up the available number of repositories worldwide, Debian and its derivatives would have the edge. Still there's also the possibility of creating your own software repository and I highly recommend the practice. Use wget or some other automated recursive download tool to keep your repository in sync with one of the remote ones.
3. Security - The distribution you choose must also have a dedication to security. It must be backed by a vigilant security team who must update as frequently as necessary to mitigate any security issues with OS-level or application-level security flaws. Being open source has its disadvantages as well as many advantages. One of those significant disadvantages is that black hatted hackers have access to the source code as well and may exploit any weaknesses in the software. Ask a lot of questions about security to make sure you're protected.
4. Usability - There is really only one way to determine usability for you and your users: Download and install. You can't depend on conjecture, marketing or emotion to make your decision. Work with the product. Have your users work with the product. Look at the available administrative tools and put them through their paces. Your distributions should have equally accessible and usable tools in KDE/GNOME and at the command line. Yes, the dreaded command line since most server systems won't, or shouldn't, have a GUI installed.
5. Price - Let's be realistic here; price is important. In fact, it might be the most important aspect when choosing a distribution for corporate adoption. Yes, many distributions are free but remember the first item in this list: Commercial Support. Free is great but unless you have a group of extremely talented people supporting your infrastructure, you'll need it. Compare prices for your narrowed-down list of distrubutions and determine whether you can live without some of a more expensive distribution's perks. Don't forget to ask for a volume discount if you're purchasing multiple copies or are supporting a large installation. Often they're offered up front but it never hurts to negotiate a better deal and everything's negotiable.
You might feel strongly about <Insert obscure Linux distribution here> but is it a good fit for a corporate environment. What about support? What about price? What about security and software updates? Would you be comfortable running your business on it?
My best advice is to go with a distribution that makes everyone happy: You, other administrators, management and the accountants.
Write back and tell me about your personal experiences with selecting a Linux distribution for your corporate environment. Did you choose a single distribution or multiple? Are you happy with your selection?