Fedora takes off as Red Hat declines

Latest statistics for the Web server market show that Fedora, Red Hat's free Linux operating system, is growing in popularity. But the picture isn't quite so rosy for its enterprise offering

The number of Web servers running Red Hat's free operating system Fedora has more than doubled over the last six months as the market share of the company's paid operating system steadily declines, according to a survey released on Monday.

Internet services company Netcraft analysed around four million Web sites to find what Linux distribution each site's Web server was running. It found that over 400,000 sites were running Fedora in March, an increase of 122 percent since September last year.

The number of Web sites running Red Hat Enterprise Linux decreased by almost 20,000 over the last six months, although it remained the most common Web server operating system with over 1.61 million deployments (out of the four million Web sites surveyed).

Colin Phipps, a developer at Netcraft, said that usage of Red Hat Enterprise Linux has been dropping off since Red Hat changed its licensing model. In 2003 Red Hat caused controversy by increasing the price of its commercial offering. At the same time it created Fedora, a free Linux distribution for hobbyists.

After Red Hat changed its licensing models some Web site administrators migrated to other distributions, rather than switching to Fedora, said Phipps. But this now appears to be changing.

"We saw a boost in Debian around the time that Red Hat made a change in its licensing model," said Phipps. "Fedora was a really new name so a lot of new sites that were setting up chose to go with Debian or SuSE instead. Fedora has now overcome this obstacle."

Other Linux distributions have increased in use among Web site administrators in the last six months. Free distributions Debian and Gentoo, and commercial distributions Mandrakesoft and SuSE have increased by 14, 45, 17 and 11 percent respectively.

Phipps admitted that commercial distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SuSE are likely to be overrepresented in the Netcraft survey as the survey is based on information contained in their Apache headers, which are less likely to be changed in out-of-the-box installations.