Linux Frequently Asked Questions
What is Linux?
Linux is an operating system installed on a computer. It is equivalent to Microsoft’s Windows Server or Apple’s Mac OSX. It can be used on an end-user’s workstation (ie. The receptionist or CEO’s computer) but is more commonly found as a server platform. It can host database services, web sites, file and print services, DNS, etc. Linux is particularly well known for being very flexible, very stable and very modular. This allows for a great many different deployment options.
The term “Linux” generically refers to a family of operating systems that all share basic characteristics but are further divided into “distributions.” Distributions (“distros”) may be thought of as purpose-specific Linux versions. There really is no one thing called “Linux” but rather this collection of Linux versions.
Several Common Linux Distributions
The licensing of Linux is what allows so many variations or distributions. Linux is licensed as Open Source under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This license ensure that Linux is “free” — free as in available with no cost and free as in freedom to make and release changes to the OS in the form of distributions. This differs from the closed source approach of Microsoft and Apple, where developers are not allowed to alter the operating system. The source code of Windows is “closed” to them. The result of Open Source licensing is that anyone can create and release their own Linux distributions. Currently there are more than 200 Linux distributions available.
There are several common distributions: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, Ubuntu or SUSE Enterprise Linux. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is dominant in the US workplace. Red Hat is a major corporation that provides services well beyond a mere operating system. These additional services come at the cost of a subscription. They provide virtualization, containerization, middleware, etc and offer very good product support. They have a major certification track. CentOS is nearly identical to RHEL but without the subscription fee or support options. It is commonly used by smaller organizations and in test situations. CentOS has no certification path. Ubuntu Linux is very popular among enthusiasts and it does include a server version that some businesses have adopted. Ubuntu does not currently have a certification track. SUSE Enterprise Linux is more common in Europe than the US and is owned by Novell. It has a certification track as well.
Linux Key Terms
- Linux: A Unix-like operating system, a competitor to Windows and Mac OSX
- Distribution (distro): Purpose specific Linux version. Examples include Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS, Ubuntu, etc.
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL): Extremely common business version of Linux, typically used as a server operating system
- CentOS: Nearly identical to RHEL without the requirement of a subscription fee
- CompTIA Linux+ Powered By LPI: Vendor neutral, entry level certification for Linux
- Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator (RHCSA): Red Hat’s first certification tier, good for existing system administrators
- Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE): Red Hat’s second certification tier (when combined with an RHCSA), good for existing system administrators
What Are My Certification Options?
There are several possible certification tracks.
CompTIA Linux+ Powered by Linux Professional Institute—a partnership of CompTIA and Linux Professional Institute (LPI), this certification requires passing two exams. Preparation for the exams can be found in the CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI 5 day course. This certification and training is generic to all Linux distributions. It provides a foundation for additional training and certification.
Red Hat certification is a vendor-specific certification with exam objectives defined by Red Hat. The courses assume some comfort with Linux already, making these classes a great followup to Linux+.
- Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA): The first of the Red Hat sys admin exams. To achieve this certification candidates must pass a single exam. It’s objectives are taught in the 5 day Enterprise Linux 1 and 5 day Enterprise Linux 2 classes (or the combined “Fast Track” course that covers all the objectives in 5 days).
- Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE): The second sys admin exam. To achieve this certification candidates must pass the RHCSA exam as well as the second RHCE exam. The objectives for this exam are covered in the Enterprise Linux 3 course.
- Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS): This certification allows for testing on one of three distributions to be awarded the LFCS. Distributions are CentOS, openSUSE and Ubuntu. Candidates need pass only one exam on one of those three chosen platforms. The LFCS certification is recognized by Microsoft as one of two required exams for the MCSA: Linux on Azure certification (the other exam is Microsoft 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions). Some of the LFCS exam objectives may be covered in the CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI course but additional study will also be necessary.
What Order Should I Take My Classes?
For those new to Linux, Linux+ is the right starting point. This class is the foundation for all future Linux courses. It is the entry level course.
Those with some Linux experience may be able to start with Enterprise Linux 1 if they are already prepared. Red Hat offers a free skills assessment here.
Linux+ → Enterprise Linux 1 & 2 (or FastTrack) → Enterprise Linux 3
The above path achieves Linux+ / LPIC-1, RHCSA and RHCE certifications.
Linux+ & 70-533 Microsoft Exam
The above path achieves LFCS and MCSA: Linux on Azure certifications.
Linux+ / LPIC-1: CompTIA and Linux Professional Institute
RHCSA and RHCE: Red Hat
LFCS: Linux Foundation
70-5333 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions: Microsoft
CompTIA / LPI (and SUSE!) $194 each, LX0-103 and LX0-104 exams, Pearson VUE
Linux Foundation System Administrator $300, register with Linux Foundation directly
Microsoft $165, register with Pearson VUE
Author: Damon Garn, Technical Instructor
MCT, MCSA, MCITP:SA, MCSE:S, CloudMASTER, RHCSA, ITIL, Linux+/LPIC-1, Security+, Network+, A+
Damon has nearly 16 years of experience as a classroom and online instructor, specializing in Windows Server and Linux courses. He is an experienced admin who enjoys empowering students with knowledge and ideas. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and playing guitar.
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