[CentOS] Why CentOS as a webhosting platform

John Hinton webmaster at ew3d.com
Fri Sep 7 06:11:09 UTC 2007

Karanbir Singh wrote:
> Hi,
> CentOS seems to be doing really well in the hosting business these 
> days, and even for people who would normally have used Windows or OSX 
> on the hosting previously, are now looking at using CentOS. And I 
> thought it would be nice to have a section on the wiki about exactly 
> why that is.
> Not having any direct connection with the hosting business I was 
> wondering if people here could help me out a bit and let me know why 
> they think CentOS is good / bad as a platform in this market segment.
> I suppose that would include dedicated hosting, VPS hosting, Shared / 
> Virtual hosting, and even high performance grid hosting that a few 
> people seem to be offering these days.
> Once we have some material here in this thread, everything will go 
> online at the wiki ( with due credit to all contributors ).
For us the bottom line was we have been a RedHat shop since the release 
of 5.2. The proven reliability of packages and updates have made our 
lives better. Only rarely over this time has anything broken due to an 
update. All through this time, every package needed to run a quality 
webserver has been available, allowing us to stay within the upstream's 
packages. Keeping up with security updates has been a breeze.

Adding in quality repositories, such as Dag's has also been pretty 
darned reliable and given us almost everything else we wanted to 
complete our basic systems.

In a nutshell, very few surprises therefore reliability and quality of 

Yes, we have lived with older systems, like the slow migration to new 
versions of mysql for instance. But the tradeoff has kept us away from 
bleeding edge.... and I hate 'bleeding' over a busted web service.

So much is interrelated, mail systems, libraries, and on and on... 
Something can literally be broken for some time before someone makes you 
aware of it. I do remember one upgrade to mysql years ago which broke 
any ability to access it via a client side application. Who tests this 
sort of thing while doing upgrades/updates? Well, generally RedHat does 
a pretty darned good job of it, but they did mess up this one security 
release which was rolled out pretty quickly. What I'm getting at is a 
sysadmin really cannot test every possible way each bit of web related 
software is going to be used. It takes a bigger community.

As for CentOS. We did hold subscriptions with Redhat for our systems up 
until the time the rates increased. Their model was better suited to the 
corporate world, where one very fast very expensive server takes care of 
the enterprise. Licensing in that situation is cheap. For us, webservers 
don't need to be all that fast and we get a lot of mileage out of them. 
For instance, we have three older machines which are run almost purely 
as nameservers. Hard to justify the licensing for those. Heck, one 
license cost more than what one of those servers is worth these days.

We do find that splitting out some services across servers while 
combining some services on some servers is a good business model for us. 
The downside is we run a lot of servers. Licensing was going to cost 
somewhere between 10 and 20% of our gross. Hosting is a fairly 
competitive market. To best compete with other providers we needed a 
different solution. Other quality solutions exist such as Debian and we 
were about to go that route when Whitebox arrived. Shortly after the 
more active CentOS community came to life. I've been extremely happy 
with the decision to go with CentOS for almost all of our production 
systems. We do also run some Debian boxes, particularly due to its 
cleaner interaction with various java products.

We have never given more than just a thought from time to time about a 
Windows based server. Yes there are tempting features, but you all know 
the advantages to a 'nix based system.

This would also be a good time for me to again sincerely thank everyone 
involved with CentOS. A special thanks to the maintainers, but also a 
thanks to all of those on this list. Cumulatively we have made a more 
robust end product for the upstream all the way down to better systems 
for all of us running CentOS. It truly is a 'C'ommunity 'ent'erprise 
'O'perating 'S'ystem!

I do wish there were more varied mailing list for CentOS. The general 
list is great but is fairly busy. I have often times thought that a 
CentOS hosting/webserver mailing list could be a great asset to those of 
us in this particular facet of operation. It would allow for more 
discussion of spam filtering, mailservers, bind, admin interfaces, 
backups, etc. Items that could so easily take over the general 
discussion list, which is not really the place for it. I do commend the 
creation of the mailing list for virtualization, as I'm sure that will 
become a hot topic.

John Hinton

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