Size of Linux Distributions for the Cloud, 2016

Nick Galbreath

The size of a fresh Linux install on EC2 is a rough proxy for it’s complexity, how big the attack surface is and how frequently it will need updates. Less is definitely more. In 2015, I compared the number of packages on default install on AWS EC2. Let’s see how things changed or not. This time, in addition to the number of packages installed, I also checked on-disk image size. Corrections and additions welcome.

OS DistributionPackagesImage in MB
Amazon Linux 20150912 384 1145
CentOS Atomic Host 7 20160130 397 1011
Ubuntu 16.04 Devel 473 887
RedHat 7.2 318 888
FreeBSD 11 Alpha NA 876
CentOS 7 10122015 301 793
Ubuntu 14.04 450 772
Debian 8.3 271 615
Core OS 835.13.0 Stable NA 541
Fedora Cloud 23 20160217 259 475


In conclusion, the choices for a truly cloud-first, server-first operating system are quite limited. The Major Vendor’s approach is to take a full-fat image and then delete things (or not) to make a cloud edition. So far this has produced less-than-great results. CoreOS certainly is doing something original and different, but it is highly opinionated (this is good!), and leaves open plenty of room for improvement and opportunities for innovation. I fail to see why a full OS couldn’t be under 250MB.