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I am very new to this and I don't even know if I should ask this question here or on Stackoverflow or ServerFault.

The Question

I wish to set up a EC2 instance on Amazon Web Services. My understanding is RedHat Enterprise Linux(RHEL) cost $0.21/hour for an m1.Small more than Amazon Linux (which is free). Is my understanding correct? Is there any difference between the performance of RHEL and Amazon Linux? If I am looking for a free Linux which one should I go with in AWS EC2?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Red Hat pricing details are here and Amazon Linux is here:; as you say, RHEL implies additional cost, whilst Amazon Linux involves 'no additional charge' beyond the charges for running instances and related services.

Amazon Linux, like CentOS, is based on RHEL -- it is fundamentally a minimal/basic install of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (hence optimised for the purpose). Amazon are currently offering a year's free Amazon EC2 Micro Instance for new customers within the 'free usage tier', as per If you would like to try EC2 for free, because of the limited memory/resource availability for the 'Micro Instance', trying Amazon Linux makes sense.

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According to CentOS (, CentOS is not related to RHEL. It may well have sprung from the original open source that RedHat also used before RedHat went commercial (and later introduced RHEL) but CentOS claim no relationship to RH or RHEL. Amazon Linux is presumably based on CentOS and not RH in any form, which is why there are no charges beyond EC2 instance costs when you launch an Amazon Linux AMI. – jarmod Mar 17 '13 at 19:01
At one time Amazon Linux was based on RHEL/CentOS, though it's diverged so significantly that it is in effect a separate distribution. – Michael Hampton Oct 18 '13 at 4:47
@jarmond's comment is not entirely accurate. The page claimed no affiliation with RedHat, Inc and stated that it is not RHEL, which is technically accurate. It stated that for legal reasons (however, the legal situation is different now). CentOS was and is derived from RHEL. Read more about it here: – Shawn J. Goff Jul 23 '14 at 19:27

Usually, the price you pay for the "Enterprise" versions (RHEL, SLES) isn't for a bonus in performance, but for a bonus in service. For example, a certain to-remain-unnamed provider of "enterprise" databases won't offer you any support unless you are running the database on a certified Linux (i.e., SLES, RHEL). If you don't have support contracts to worry about, there's little to be had in the "enterprise" distributions that is worth the price.


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I would side with Amazon Linux being superior from a performance standpoint simply because Amazon has worked on the code to tweak it specifically for their product. I'm sure they both run well, the price points are likely just for support purposes like DevSolar mentions. I've only used windows OS's in EC2, so I can't vouch for actual performance of those two. – Melikoth Jun 20 '12 at 11:42

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