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Can RAM-residing small linux distros as SliTaz, DSL, and Tinycore be used as production servers?

I'm considering the said distros as alternative to CentOS to be my customers' application, web(nginx), SSH, SFTP, SCP server over about 50 LAN computers.


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closed as not constructive by Canadian Luke, Michael Hampton, 8088, TFM, Mokubai Dec 24 '12 at 10:25

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Since you claim you want to minimize memory usage: is this a real problem you're facing right now, and have you considered going the simplest way (i.e. upgrading your servers)? – Renan Dec 24 '12 at 2:04
@Renan Honestly, I'm not having that experience, just an impression I got from readings that small Linux distros may have better memory management. – willowdan Dec 24 '12 at 2:18
They all run the same basic kernel, and most use the same scheduler and so on. There should be no practical difference. – Journeyman Geek Dec 24 '12 at 2:54
By the way, let me emphasize that the distros I mentioned are all RAM residing ones, and I have this impression that they are much faster. – willowdan Dec 24 '12 at 3:15

In theory, yes: by installing the adequate packages, any distro can become a server.

But in practice, you want distros with better support and a long life cycle (like CentOS, RHEL, Ubuntu LTS etc...) - and you can make them lightweight if you need to (e.g. disable unneeded services).

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Can you please help me be clear on what ifs in for this scenario? What could be the worse that can happen if I settle for small Linux distros? – willowdan Dec 24 '12 at 1:38
@willowdan The lightweight distros are not as extensively tested and updated as CentOS, RHEL, etc.... – Renan Dec 24 '12 at 1:41
Your distro could go dead and you'd lack updates and support, as I posted on my answer ;p – Journeyman Geek Dec 24 '12 at 1:42
Thanks Renan and Journey ;) – willowdan Dec 24 '12 at 2:10

Yes and no.

The big advantage with Centos (and debian, and ubuntu) is that you have a set of packages that are stable, and you'd know that its been tested in a larger scale environment.

DSL hasn't been updated since 2008 it seems so its unlikely to have up to date security packages and such (and this is a big thing in favour of centos 0 red hat isn't likely to lose interest in their product). Thats the worse case scenario - being without security updates suddenly. The big distros usually have a predictable release cycle for easier long term planning.

Siltaz is actively updated as is tinycore - but whether it has the packages you need is another story. If you need to compile your own from scratch keeping things updated and tested will be a pain.

If you're willing to put in the time and effort in order to go for 'lightness', you might want to consider gentoo - it has decent support, can be configured as a server, and is pretty reliable once set up right.

On the other hand, the big server distros are set up to be, well servers, have great first and third party support and you'd have an easier time getting documentation. Its also easier to get things started to a known state, and to build up from there, and to plan updates and upgrades. Your packages have been extensively tested. They will very likely work, or fail in a repeatable manner. More importantly, you can get things set up faster, and go have some coffee, rather than beating a distro that may not be suited for the role into working.

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Got that clearly. So is Gentoo the smallest among the big distros I can work on for a 50 computer LAN as a server? Please give me a list of other options for lightweight distros for server purposes. CentOS 6.x minimal install still seem to be big and its memory utilization may not be the most efficient, but please correct me if I'm wrong. – willowdan Dec 24 '12 at 1:51
@willowdan: You're wrong. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Dec 24 '12 at 2:03
Well. I've run both centos and debian on fairly minimal hardware - debian should be able to handle that kinda load. If you want to tweak a system for a specific sort of role or constraint, and don't mind losing some maintainabilty gentoo is a good choice. With current ram prices tho, there's very little reason not to get as much ram as possible, even my personal desktop has 16gb now. Its not the distro, its the setup options. In the same situation I'd start of debian minimal myself, because I am familiar with it. – Journeyman Geek Dec 24 '12 at 2:21
Hi @Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams please elaborate why my assumption is wrong .. thanks – willowdan Dec 24 '12 at 2:22
The AOS kickstart will give you an install of 250MB or less, and packages can be added as required rather than it starting out with what the distributor has decided makes a functional system. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Dec 24 '12 at 2:34

There is a server distro called Alpine Linux that is small and suitable for a production server environment. It is optimized for routers, however, all the normal server packages are included by default.

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