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Linux Operating System: Red Hat vs Ubuntu

No doubt, Red Hat and Ubuntu are two of the biggest Linux operating systems. These distributions come from different backgrounds. However, their functionalities overlap to a large extent. Users searching for open-source software can opt for either the Red Hat or Ubuntu distribution. Keep reading to understand who dominates the Red Hat vs. Ubuntu comparison as the top Linux operating system!

Let’s start with the basics. What is an operating system? An OS is a software program that controls and operates all other programs installed. It is also responsible for the effective utilization of a system’s memory. Today’s most popular and widely-used OS are Mac, Windows, Ubuntu, Linux, Red Hat, iOS and Unix. The key components of an OS are the User interface (UI), Kernel, and application programming interface (API).

ALSO READ: Unix vs Linux – Key Differences You Need To Know

An Understanding of How Linux Works With Key Examples

Linux is an open-source operating system kernel that serves as the core of various Unix-like operating systems. The Linux operating system was created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 and has since become one of the most widely used operating systems in the world, especially in server environments, embedded systems, and as the basis for various desktop and mobile operating systems (e.g., Android).

Here’s a detailed explanation of Linux, along with examples:


At its core, Linux is a kernel, which is the central component of any operating system. The kernel acts as an intermediary between the hardware of a computer and the software running on it. It manages system resources such as CPU, memory, devices, and file systems. Examples of kernel-related tasks include process management, memory management, device drivers, and hardware abstraction.

Example: When you run a program on a Linux operating system, the kernel is responsible for allocating memory for that program, scheduling its execution on the CPU, and handling any interactions with hardware devices, like storage or network interfaces.

Open Source

Linux is open source, which means its source code is freely available for anyone to view, modify, and distribute. This open nature encourages collaboration, innovation, and transparency. Thousands of developers worldwide contribute to improving Linux, making it highly adaptable and reliable.

Example: Developers from various organizations and communities worldwide collaborate to enhance the Linux kernel, adding new features, fixing bugs, and optimizing performance.

Distributions (Distros)

While Linux is the kernel, it is typically distributed as part of a complete operating system package called a Linux distribution or distro. A distro includes the Linux kernel, system libraries, utilities, package managers, and a graphical desktop environment (in some cases).

Example: Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, CentOS, and Arch Linux are popular Linux distributions. Each distro may have its package manager, software repositories, and configuration tools, making them suitable for different use cases.

Command Line Interface (CLI)

The Linux operating system offers a powerful command-line interface where users interact with the system by typing commands. The CLI allows for precise control over the system and is favored by system administrators and power users.

Example: You can use commands like ls to list files, mkdir to create directories, and grep to search for specific text within files.

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

While the command line is powerful, Linux also supports graphical user interfaces like GNOME, KDE, and Xfce. These provide a more familiar and user-friendly environment for those who prefer a GUI.

Example: GNOME provides a desktop environment with a graphical file manager, application launcher, and system settings accessible through mouse clicks.


Linux is known for its robust security features. It uses a multi-user and permissions-based model, ensuring that one user’s actions cannot compromise the entire system. Security updates and patches are regularly released to address vulnerabilities.

Example: Linux systems use file permissions and user privileges to control access to files and directories, preventing unauthorized access to critical system files.

Server and Embedded Systems

Linux operating system is widely used in server environments due to its stability, security, and scalability. It also powers many embedded systems, such as routers, smart TVs, and IoT devices.

Example: Many web servers, including Apache and Nginx, run on Linux. Android OS, which is based on the Linux kernel, is used in billions of smartphones and tablets.


Linux offers a high degree of customization. Users can tailor their Linux system to their specific needs by choosing different desktop environments, software packages, and configurations.

Example: You can install and configure various software packages to turn a standard Linux installation into a web server, media center, or gaming machine.

Community and Support

Linux operating system has a vast and active community of users and developers who provide support, documentation, and troubleshooting assistance. Online forums, mailing lists, and documentation resources are readily available.

Example: If you encounter an issue while using Linux, you can seek help on forums like Stack Exchange or Reddit’s Linux communities.

History and Purpose Overview: Red Hat Linux vs. Ubuntu

Red Hat Linux

Red Hat OS is a Linux operating system that an American multinational company, Red Hat Inc., has published. It was founded in 1993. Initially called Red Hat Commercial Linux, Red Hat Linux 1.0 was released in 1994. Soon enough, the company released various derivative distributions such as Turbolinux, Scientific, Yellow Dog, and Mandrake (Mandriva). However, Red Hat was the premier distributor that used the Red Hat Packet Manager (RHPM). Later, it became the Linux Standard Bases’ baseline package format.

Over the years, the company name Red Hat has become synonymous with its namesake operating system. Nowadays, the term ‘Red Hat’ usually denotes Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It is strictly an enterprise Linux distribution that is targeted at large corporations. This is an important distinction from Ubuntu Linux OS, which centers around individual home users.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is well-known for its security-oriented features. Additionally, it can work with the older versions of most software packages. These include desktop environments and graphic card drivers. RHEL maintains its compatibility with other enterprise applications and high-security capabilities. Red Hat OS enables these package features by backporting bugs and security fixes. It supports almost all types of loads, whether virtual, physical, or cloud systems.

In the initial stages, RHEL was released as an open-source system. Later down the line, Red Hat joined hands with Fedora, creating two different versions of Red Hat Linux OS systems. While FEDORA frequently releases more versions, RHEL stays put with fewer releases. RHEL is commonly used in Firefox, OpenOffice, Python, CUPS, and MYSQL. Additionally, Red Hat has also introduced a graphical installer named Anaconda.

Red Hat has developed SELinux, a Linux kernel security module. It provides an effective mechanism to support security policies for access control. Currently, RHEL has SELinux enabled by default. It is a key component of Linux installations.

SEE ALSO: Unix vs Linux – Key Differences You Need To Know


The meaning of Ubuntu is ‘humanity to others.’ Ubuntu is another open source OS Linux distribution. With over 20 million users under its belt, it is widely used for personal, educational, and business purposes. In 2004, a Canadian software company named Canonical Ltd released the debut version of Ubuntu. A South-African entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth, funded and founded the UK-based software company. The basic difference between Red Hat and Ubuntu is that the latter isn’t a Linux distribution originally. It was built on the Linux Kernel’s earliest operating system, Debian.


Debian was first released in 1993. Despite this, Ubuntu has managed to churn out various derivatives such as Mythbuntu, Bodhi Linux, and Linux Mint. Currently, Linux Mint is the most popular distribution of Linux. One of the USPs of Ubuntu is that its core focus from the start has always been usability. This has helped it become a household name around the world.

Similar to Red Hat, Ubuntu also provides support contracts. This is despite the fact the distribution generally runs on personal computers. On comparing the market share and usage statistics of Linux, Ubuntu is the clear winner. It is the most widely used Linux distribution on website servers. This can easily lead to the assumption that in the race between Red Hat and Ubuntu, the latter comes out on top.

The truth is third-party enterprise tools work well on both Ubuntu and Red Hat OS. Yet, most important operating systems prefer to run on enterprise-grade solutions such as RHEL. There is a reason why the percentage of Ubuntu servers is so high. This is due to the fact that security systems generally conceal details about the OS they use.

The approach adopted by Ubuntu is to offer its users various tailored versions. This helps to remain focused on usability and prioritize updated features over security and stability. Hence, Ubuntu is adaptable for multiple servers, desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Another difference between Ubuntu and Red Hat is that the former does not backport bug fixes and security updates. Instead, Ubuntu releases new package versions as and when they are available. Similar to SELinux, Ubuntu uses AppArmour. It is a Linux kernel security module that uses per-program profiles to restrict program capabilities.

Everyday Use: Red Hat or Ubuntu?

Both Red Hat and Ubuntu favor the use of Linux Kernel and GNU core utilities, a widely used package containing basic tools. This means that the same applications and commands can be used on both distributions. Still, Red Hat uses RPM package manager for its package management system. Meanwhile, Ubuntu prefers Debian packages for its software package format.

For everyday use, Ubuntu users can install Firefox with the Ubuntu Software Centre. Another option is to type ‘apt-get install firefox’ on the terminal. The same package can be installed on Red Hat using the Package Management Tool. Users can also type ‘yum install firefox’ on the terminal.

Yet another factor distinguishing Red Hat and Ubuntu is their desktop environment. The default desktop environment for Ubuntu is called Unity. It was exclusively developed by Ubuntu’s parent company, Canonical Ltd. Unity is based on the GNU Network Object Model Environment (GNOME). The latter is the default desktop environment for Red Hat Linux.

These differences between Ubuntu and Red Hat OS with regard to desktop environments are purely from a visual perspective. These relatively minor variations are mainly from the point of view of the end user.

SEE ALSO: Cloud Computing- A Fuss or A Force to Be Reckoned with?

13 Key Differences between Red Hat and Ubuntu

Listed below are the most important differences between the Ubuntu and Red Hat operating systems.

1. System Foundation

Ubuntu is built using Debian as its core foundation. Hence, all it is features and properties are derived from the existing OS Debian. In contrast, Red Hat is an independently built OS that is not derived from any sources.

2. Package Manager

A package manager is similar to a program or device manager. It allows systems to install, upgrade, and remove programs. The package manager extensions for Ubuntu and Red Hat are ‘.deb’ and ‘.rpm,’ referring to the Debian and Red Hat Package Manager, respectively.

3. Platform Focus

Ubuntu mainly focuses on desktop users, working on its access and user-friendly features. Red Hat is first and foremost focused on server platforms

4. Docker Integration

Docker is a software platform that helps in the management of virtual application containers. Both Ubuntu and Red Hat offer the option to integrate Docker. In addition, Red Hat also provides certified Docker applications.

5. Support Factor

Ubuntu is a fairly simplified operating system and provides extensive support. On the contrary, Red Hat opts for features like system performance and stability over support. Due to this reason, it easily ships with older package versions in the market. Red Hat also offers support for up to ten years.

Red vs Ubuntu supporting operating system | iTMunch

6. Cloud Integration

Both companies hold recognized commercial support, and when pushing these systems to the cloud, Ubuntu remains fully functional with excellent support.

7. Integration with Docker

Docker is a software platform that allows the management of virtualized application containers. So, both Ubuntu and Redhat provide integration of Docker. But Red Hat keeps ahead by certifying Docker applications.

8. Support Factor

Ubuntu is fairly simplified and provides extensive support for its OS; Redhat opts for stability and performance of the system over support factors. To maintain this, it ships with older packages into the market, which ensures its solidity and stability. But to stay on a fact, the period of support for red hat stays over a long time up to the 10-year mark.

9. Security

Red Hat releases rapid security updates and holds a built-in recovery solution by installing the concept of clustering.

10. Ease for beginners

Redhat is difficult for beginners since it is more of a CLI-based system, and comparatively, Ubuntu is easy for beginners. Also, Ubuntu has a big community that readily helps its users. Also, the Ubuntu server will be much easier with prior Ubuntu Desktop exposure.

11. Market Share by Top Websites

While Ubuntu is leading in the top 10k, top 100k, top 1 million, and the entire web, Red Hat is lagging in all segments.

12. Geography

Ubuntu is the clear winner in countries like Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and 225 more. Red Hat is the preferred operating system only in Japan.

13. Website Categories

Ubuntu is spread out in terms of user coverage and website categories. This includes people, society, shopping, arts, entertainment, internet, telecom, business and industry. Meanwhile, Red Hat leads only in associations.

Key Differences Between Red Hat & Ubuntu: Linux Usage

Red Hat and Ubuntu are two popular Linux distributions, and there are several key differences between them:

Company and Licensing

  • Red Hat: Red Hat is developed and maintained by Red Hat, Inc. It follows a subscription-based model, where customers pay for support and access to certified software. Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is the enterprise version, and CentOS Stream is its free, community-driven counterpart.
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu is developed by Canonical Ltd. It is available in two main editions: Ubuntu Desktop (for personal use) and Ubuntu Server (for server and cloud environments). Ubuntu is known for its commitment to open-source principles, and it’s free to use.

Release Cycle

  • Red Hat: Red Hat Enterprise Linux has a longer release cycle (typically around 5-7 years), which emphasizes stability and long-term support for enterprise customers.
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu has a regular release cycle with two types of releases: LTS (Long-Term Support) and non-LTS. LTS releases are supported for five years, while non-LTS releases are supported for nine months. This allows users to choose between stability and access to newer features.

Package Management

  • Red Hat: Red Hat and CentOS use the RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) package format and the yum or dnf package manager for software installation and updates.
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu uses the Debian package format (.deb) and the apt package manager for software management.

Package Repositories

  • Red Hat: Red Hat provides its own repositories for software packages and has a strict certification process for third-party software.
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu uses its own repositories for software distribution. It also has a wide range of community-maintained repositories and Personal Package Archives (PPAs) for additional software.

Desktop Environments

  • Red Hat: Red Hat primarily targets server environments, so it doesn’t include a specific default desktop environment. Users can install desktop environments of their choice.
  • Ubuntu: In recent releases, Ubuntu includes its own desktop environment called Unity (in older versions) and GNOME as the default desktop environment. There are also official flavors with other desktop environments like KDE, Xfce, and LXQt.

Target Audience

  • Red Hat: Red Hat Enterprise Linux is designed for enterprise and server environments where stability, security, and long-term support are critical. It’s widely used in data centers and business-critical applications.
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu offers a broader appeal, catering to both desktop and server users. It’s popular for personal computers, development workstations, and cloud-based deployments.

Community and Support

  • Red Hat: Red Hat provides commercial support for its products, including 24/7 technical support and certifications. CentOS Stream, which was previously a free, community-supported version of RHEL, has undergone changes in its support model.
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu offers a mix of free community support through forums and paid support options through Canonical. The LTS versions are well-regarded for their long-term stability.

In summary, Red Hat and Ubuntu are both Linux distributions with distinct characteristics and target audiences. Red Hat focuses on enterprise environments with an emphasis on stability and support, while Ubuntu offers a more diverse ecosystem, serving both personal and server use cases with a strong commitment to open source. The choice between them depends on your specific requirements and preferences.

Red Hat vs Ubuntu in a Nutshell

Red Hat

  • Costs Money
  • Red Hat Operating System
  • Release schedule varies around 5 years
  • Updated less frequently
  • Default desktop is Java GNOME


  • Free of Cost (Basic Version)
  • Ubuntu Linux Operating System
  • Release schedule varies around 10 years
  • Frequently updated
  • Default desktop is Node JS GNOME


No doubt, there is a significant overlap between the features of Ubuntu and Red Hat. However, both distributions have a unique target audience. While Ubuntu feels right at home on desktop computers and less complex servers, Red Hat finds mass appeal in enterprises.

SEE ALSO: New Tech Enables Communication Between Planes and Submarines

The customer base for Red Hat Linux includes large corporations requiring top-notch security and professional support. They are more willing to shell out money for additional paid support and services. Meanwhile, Ubuntu finds a place with both amateurs and professionals working with simpler web servers. Most operating system experts recommend that Linux newbies start with Ubuntu due to the availability of online resources.

Feature Image Source: Photo by Freepik

Prerna Mahtani
Prerna Mahtani
Prerna Mahtani has been a content writer for over 8 years. She began her content career with a digital marketing agency in Pune, India. She has extensive knowledge and has written on a wide range of issues throughout her career. She focuses on business-to-business content in technology, communication, and management.
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