Enterprise Linux versus Embedded Linux

Linux is one of the most widely used open source operating systems and is available in many different variants. This wide set of choices can make it confusing and challenging to determine the right version for a given use case. Wind River's article offers an introduction to Linux for the enterprise and Linux for embedded products.
The overall Linux landscape can be broken into two device target segments: enterprise and embedded. The boundaries between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) are becoming increasingly blurred. One of the benefits of the Linux ecosystem is that one size does not have to fit all, as there are many options to customize a system for a particular market.


Often when people think of Linux operating systems, they are considering the enterprise Linux offerings from Red Hat, Ubuntu, and others. The operating system vendor handles the design and compilation of the operating system environment. The user is limited to selecting a configuration or edition, installing additional software packages, and handling the administrative configuration of individual items. Everything is expected to be used in a purely binary environment by IT staff and general users. Distributors often include long-term support with the caveat that they only support certain common components, such as unmodified software and common usage considered typical for the platform targeted toward use cases with relatively shorter product lifecycles, such as three to five years. There are special purpose enterprise systems designed to run general purpose components. Both Project Atomic and Ubuntu Core use a small subset of the standard components from their base enterprise operating systems. These base components provide just enough of an environment for an IT administrator to deploy other special purpose software packages or containers. Often these containers are designed around providing unique services for system users. While the core environment is special purpose, the ability to extend the system using containers provides a general purpose behavior.

Hybrid of Enterprise and Embedded Linux

Somewhere on the spectrum between enterprise and embedded Linux sits roll-your-own, or customized enterprise distributions. These distributions are still a fairly common way to build a special purpose enterprise or embedded Linux system. Often they are based on a fork of a community-developed distribution. This gives users the mistaken impression that there is a community they can ask for help, when in reality the creator of this custom fork cannot rely on the initial community-created distribution it was derived from.
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