Red Hat remains the leading Linux distribution in use on the Internet, experiencing slight market share erosion in the first six months of 2004, but still showing a healthy net gain of sites under its new licensing structure. Debian and SuSE show market share gains among Linux distributions detected by our Hosting Provider Switching Analysis, while Gentoo has the fastest percentage growth rate.
The gains by Debian, SuSE and Gentoo have been helped by the continued growth of the hosting market in Europe, where these distributions have their largest users. Debian is now running on more than 1 million web-facing hostnames, showing particular strength among French service providers Gandi (72k hostnames) and Proxad (58.8k). SuSE, which is now owned by Novell, has its largest installations at German providers 1&1 Internet (174k hostnames)), Deutsche Telekom (97k), Evanzo (49k) and Intergenia AG (47k). More than a third of Gentoo's hostnames are housed at two European providers, Denmark's Forskningsnetten (6.1k) and Germany's Dotcom-server (5.6k)
It's likely that these distributions also have gotten fresh attention due to changes at Red Hat. Hosting companies, which represent some of the larger Linux installations, began assessing the economics of Red Hat last summer, when the company unveiled a new business plan built around its Red Hat Enterprise Linux product, which requires a $349 annual subscription. Red Hat said it would discontinue support and security updates for Red Hat Linux 9 in April.
Red Hat has fared best among dedicated server providers, with EV1Servers and Rackspace contributing to its growth. Hosting companies reducing their use of Red Hat include Interland and Affinity, which have substantial shared hosting operations. The economics of the shared hosting sector appear to make it more cost-effective for providers to use in-house support staff, rather then incurring a per-server cost for paid support.
Cobalt reversed a lengthy erosion in hostnames following Sun's decision to open its source code, but experienced a slight decline in market share, as its growth rate was outpaced by other distributions during a period of huge expansion in Linux-based hosting. A distribution name is present in a little over a quarter of Linux based Apache sites.