Choosing an OS
First of all, it is worth mentioning that Linux is not the only option available; other freely available operating systems include the BSDs (FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD), Solaris Express, Nexenta, and others. However, there are many GNU/Linux distributions available, and these generally have support for the widest range of hardware and software. Most of these distributions can be downloaded and used totally legally, even for production use. Of the Linux distributions mentioned here, RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) have restricted availability and access to updates; Oracle Solaris is restricted to a 90-day trial period for production use.
RHEL is the commercial distribution based on Fedora. It is particularly popular in North America and much of Europe. Because the RHEL media includes RedHat trademarks and some non-Free Software (such as the RedHat Cluster), distribution of the media is restricted to licensed customers. However, the CentOS project rebuilds RHEL from source, removing RedHat trademarks, providing a Linux distribution that is totally binary and source code–compatible with RHEL. This can be very useful as a lot of commercial software for Linux is tested and supported only on RHEL, but those vendors will often also support the application running on CentOS, even if they do not support the OS itself.
RHEL itself is available by paid subscription only. However, CentOS and Oracle Enterprise Linux are two clones ...