Should we switch from Fedora to Scientific Linux?

Background

Back in 2004, when Redhat stopped offering their distribution for free, I asked representatives from the different groups at Nevis what version of Linux they wanted to use. The answer was unanimous: Fedora Core (now just "Fedora").

With Fedora, a given version is only supported for about a year. In August 2008, I had to update all the major servers to Fedora 9. In June, after Fedora 11 is released, Fedora 9 will no longer be supported. I plan to upgrade the major servers in August (after the summer students leave); if I keep to our current practice, this would be to Fedora 11.

This seems a good time to revisit the decision to use Fedora instead of Scientific Linux.

Discussion

In the following points, I've put a + next to those points that I think are in favor of switching to Scientific Linux (SL), and a - to those points that i think are against the switch.

  • + Five years ago, Scientific Linux seemed relatively unstable. Now those issues appears to be resolved.

  • + Five years ago, it wasn't clear on which flavor of Linux the national labs would settle. Now it's clear that CERN and FNAL have picked Scientific Linux; I'm not sure what BNL has decided.

  • + Instead of upgrading the OS on the major servers every year, I'd be doing it every 3-5 years.

  • +/- We'd have to decide to which version of SL I'd upgrade. Most groups are still in the process of upgrading from Scientific Linux 4 to SL5. The difference is major, since SL5 uses a different version of the GCC compiler.

    • - Maybe some groups would want SL4 and others SL5, which becomes a bit of a maintenance issue. (Though not much of one; I maintain multiple versions of Fedora already.)

    • + To some extent, the SL compiler version is irrelevant, since my standardized compilers would stil be available.

  • - Right now, I upgrade systems from Fedora X to Fedora X+2 (typically). To install SL on a box would not be an upgrade; it would be a re-install of the operating system.

  • - Scientific Linux is less robust than Fedora on newer or special hardware. For example, I've had problems installing SL on laptops. It was hard to install Fedora on the systems that the REU students use; SL might be harder.

    • + It's been years since someone asked me to install Linux on a laptop. The folks who want to do development on their laptops either run Linux using VMware, or have Mac laptops.

    • + For systems like the REU boxes, it usually doesn't matter whether they run SL or Fedora; they're on the private network, so security isn't as much of an issue.

      • - But it might matter for jobs running on the condor batch farm; it's possible that a job compiled on an SL system might not run on a Fedora box.

  • - The Fedora distributions tend to be a bit more 'feature-rich" than the SL distributions. The SL distributions don't add new features over a given version's lifetime of 3-5 years; the Fedora distributions add new features every year.

    • + Some of the security features of the newest Fedora distributions have been a pain to work around.

Your thoughts?

-- WilliamSeligman - 23 Apr 2009

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Topic revision: r3 - 2009-07-24 - WilliamSeligman
 
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