12.15.10

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OpenSUSE’s Future Still Debated, Not Seen Clearly

Posted in Novell, OpenSUSE, SLES/SLED at 6:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Christmas

Summary: OpenSUSE’s route after an AttachMSFT takeover is still not defined clearly enough, which puts it at risk and also a good position to fork

AS LONGTIME readers may know, as a former SUSE user my views on the subject are mixed. On the one hand I think that OpenSUSE is a solid distribution with a decent reputation, but on the other hand, OpenSUSE is owned by Novell, which promotes Microsoft agenda (more on that later). Had the OpenSUSE community decided to fork (thus departing from Novell), a lot would change. The OpenSUSE Board, which comprises both Novell employees and outsiders (elections imminent and candidates step forward, in addition to ambassadors), has greetings for this season and there are claims that “Collaboration thrives!”

“Had the OpenSUSE community decided to fork (thus departing from Novell), a lot would change.”“Meanwhile,” says this post, “Linux Journal is noticing the spirit of openSUSE – mentioning the Collaboration days in the linked article! The team feels full of energy and is looking forward to the next two Collaboration Days scheduled for this month. On Monday, 13 December, we’ll have the Marketing Materials Review Day and on Tuesday, 21 December, we’ll have the PR and Social Media Review Day.”

This was written in reference to Susan Linton’s writings about OpenSUSE, which she has been following and using for quite some time (for as long as I’ve read her excellent Web site, TuxMachines). One post asks: “Has the Novell Deal Hampered openSUSE?”

Soon after the reworked openFATE was announced, a rolling release option was introduced by Greg Kroah-Hartman, a kernel developer employed by Novell. This was something he’d been wanting to do for a while, and he said the time was right to start it now. Work will start soon on the 11.3 branch and users with 11.3 or new 11.4 installs should be able to start rolling on the openSUSE river pretty soon, should they choose to do so. This will be accomplished through a separate repository, so users can still enjoy the traditional periodic install or upgrade with important and security fixes as usual if they wish.

The openSUSE Board elections were announced on December 1. The openSUSE board consists of five members to oversee the project. The board helps resolve conflicts, communicate with Novell, facilitate communication with the community, and assist with the decision making processes. There are two seats to fill and only one can be a Novell employee. The election is taking place from January 12 to January 26. Results will be announced January 26. Only openSUSE members are eligible to vote, but becoming a member isn’t difficult. To become a member you will have to have contributed to openSUSE in some manner. All this is just another way one can be involved in the direction of openSUSE.

“The openSUSE and Ubuntu Rollercoasters” is another Linton post on the subject of OpenSUSE, but all the other posts from the past two weeks are either purely technical or about Tumbleweed, which is basically the possibility that OpenSUSE will become a rolling release [1, 2, 3]. Here is one person’s opinion on OpenSUSE Long-Term Support (LTS) release:

1. I have a feeling the two being analogised to CentOS is a bit unfair. openSUSE’s relation with SLE has always been more the Fedora to RHEL kind. We, as a project, form a base, not a copy of SUSE’s enterprise offerings, if typically more conservatively than competition.

2. openSUSE has the direct primary sponsorship of Novell. CentOS has no official affiliation with RH. An openSLES may antagonise Novell/SUSE/Attachmate’s friendly approach.

3. Offering of an LTS version alternately with a couple of normal versions has not been discussed. I wonder why. Ubuntu does that quite appreciably, (though I have never personally encountered an Ubuntu-powered server).
From Wikipedia, “To date every fourth release, in the second quarter of even-numbered years, has been designated as a Long Term Support (LTS) release, indicating that it has updates for three years for desktop use and five years for server”

Over at Ostatic, Susan Linton wrote about this potentially major news (similar rumours were made about Ubuntu recently, but they turned out to be false). She also ponders “The (open)Fate of openSUSE”. We wrote about OpenSUSE in a dedicated fashion only a couple of times since the AttachMSFT [sic] news [1, 2] and the general feeling is that AttachMSFT would not be sufficiently committed. Think of what Xandros did with Linspire and Freespire if that helps. One of the “OpenSUSE lizards” is “[a]nnouncing factory-tested” while the more major release is OpenSUSE 11.4-milestone4 (screenshots here or here), which brings new manuals. Assuming that OpenSUSE 11.4 is released and marketed by AttachMSFT, is there any guarantee that OpenSUSE 11.5 will ever come out? AttachMSFT is not legally obliged. In general, AttachMSFT needn’t even carry on contributing to Linux at all. Just watch what happened to Caldera/SCO after Kevin McBride came in.

Here is what the 451 Group has to say on the subject:

In conclusion, Linux fans should be encouraged by the quality, diversity and new directions of the Linux kernel development community. While there is cause for some concern regarding Novell’s contribution, overall, Linux development seems to be charging ahead.

“Intel has managed to surpass Novell and IBM” says another source and since AttachMSFT's promise to OpenSUSE is not a legal commitment even the former community manager of the project is not too optimistic (further discussion in LWN). To quote some of Zonker’s good piece:

Now we know who’s buying Novell, but now what? The Attachmate deal, if it goes through, has some serious implications for the rest of the tech industry in 2011 and beyond.

First, a quick disclaimer: I’m a former Novell employee, and worked for the company for two years, ending in January 2010. I don’t have any stock or financial interest in the company.

Now onto the news. I’ve written a bit about this on NetworkWorld when the deal was announced on Monday, November 22. To say the least, I was surprised that the deal went down like this. I was fairly sure, and was hopeful, that Novell would go to VMware. The, as they say, “synergy” between the SUSE part of Novell’s business and VMware is pretty strong. Novell has been focusing a lot on SUSE Studio and virtualization through its “perfect guest,” virtualization strategy. The company hasn’t been focusing very hard on being a host platform for virtualization. That’s not to say you can’t use SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as a host platform — you can, but the focus has been on being a good guest.

For some more news about OpenSUSE see the official project Web site [1, 2]. There is some better news [1, 2], but none which is Earth-shattering. Techrights is genuinely worried about OpenSUSE, thinking that AttachMSFT will do to it what SCOracle [sic] did to OpenSolaris. OpenSUSE is where improvements to GNU/Linux are pushed upstream.

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