Mailinglist Archive: opensuse-factory (710 mails)

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Re: [opensuse-factory] openSUSE vs Ubuntu for Enterprise Scientific Computing Environment

I'll take a pass at this having worked in a similar environment.

On 06/04/2011 03:51 PM, Di Pe wrote:
This may be slightly off-topic for this forum, but I wanted to hear
what the Suse experts have to say.

We are are a research non-profit with about 2500 staff (300-400 part
time Unix users and 100 hardcore Linux users) and about 500 openSUSE
and some SLES and CentOS boxes ( 50 Desktops, 100 servers and a
compute cluster with 350 boxes) Our goal has always been to create a
unified environment which enables researchers to use their NFS mounted
home directory from everywhere and most of our systems are at openSUSE
11.2 or 11.3.

In general we really like Suse and have only 3 gripes:
SLES is too different from openSUSE (only small number of packages)
KDE support for encrypted wifi is insufficient (Gnome is only slighly better)
package names change too frequently (but I don't know that any other
Linux distro is doing a better job here)

Depending on what type of encryption _and_ authentication, this could be
problematic on older KDE versions. 11.3+ seems much better with this.

with OBS its trivial to add or upgrade packages you are missing provided
you do not need to upgrade major libraries like libc or x-org

I wanted to add that the infrastructure IT people i our organization
moved to CentOS after they found the package manager to be unworkable
in 10.1. (We found it pretty hard to swallow, too ....but we kept
going with Suse)

Yup, it was painful for everyone involved. I find zypper equally usable
as yum or apt-get and its very fast now. zypper is also very robust in
not leaving your system in a broken state due to dependencies. From my
vantage point dependency handling is solved with all three.

We are now starting to re-design our HPC cluster and one of the
questions that came up is which Linux distro we should use in the
future. We also need to upgrade our desktop Linux desktops so this
seems to be a good time to take a deep breath and re-think what we are

One area where I definitely saw an advantage for both SLES and openSUSE
in the HPC side was really excellent support for enterprise hardware. I
can recall specific instances where the IT admins struggled for hours
sometimes days to get both Debian and Ubuntu working on newer hardware
-especially servers. Where everything worked out of the box for
openSUSE/SLES. I mention specifically things like RAID cards, SAS, 10Gb
networking and even specific drivers for hardware monitoring. I kept
waving openSUSE isos at them mentioning the install took me 20 minutes
on the same exact hardware :)

We only considered openSUSE, Ubuntu, Fedora and CentOS. We quickly
ditched CentOS for being always being too outdated and Fedora for
being too bleeding edge. This leaves us with Ubuntu and openSUSE.

after a few days of research our group came up with this list and we
are still working on it. Please correct

Advantage openSUSE

* YaST administration tool centralizes and simplifies configuration
and administration.

* As a team, we have much more experience supporting openSUSE. We have
deployment tools, software repositories, and rescue tools for openSUSE
and have experience building rpm packages (e.g. using the openSUSE
build service)

That is extremely important IMO and if it were the opposite (similar foo
with RHEL or Debian) I would be less less forceful in recommending you

* Would have no migration costs to different Linux OS (~$50k - $100k
for migration of 100+ Linux Systems to Ubuntu)

* 8-month release cycle indicates openSUSE focuses more on stability.

Very correct there. I remember admining some Ubuntu LTS servers which
had squid ntp and dhcp package errors for months which would not likely
happen with an openSUSE release.

* Single edition of openSUSE supports both servers and desktops, KDE
and Gnome. (KDE in openSUSE is better supported than kubuntu)

I'm biased, but I think I've long held openSUSE has the best KDE
experience anywhere. What is really good in the past few releases Gnome
has equal footing, support in the distro and it also is very well
polished. In the 10.x versions perhaps less so.

* openSUSE is a Tier 1 distribution that can get bugfixes faster
upstream to the kernel developers (Ubuntu reports bugs to Debian which
reports them to the Linux kernel developers)

Moreover, via IRC, mailing lists you can directly contact many of the
package maintainers who are also upstream maintainers. Eg Greg KH is the
stable kernel maintainer and very active on many openSUSE lists. the GCC
release manager and several other direct committers to projects like
Samba not only work for Suse, but also are community members. So getting
follow-up to bugs and feature requests are very short cycles. With OBS
I've seen unofficial fixes in hours sometimes.

Even better, with OBS and Susestudio you can tailor the distro to your
exact needs. I think the key word for openSUSE is transparency. Via OBS
you can see exactly what goes into the distribution packages and its
trivial to create custom packages for your environment.

Advantage Ubuntu

* About 3x more binary packages are available for Ubuntu, including
scientific applications.

On the ISO's maybe, but when you add OBS, that becomes less of an issue.
To be honest, I think Scientific Linux probably has more of a lead over
anyone with specific Scientific apps, but there are a number of new
packages coming into OBS which are pure science apps and languages.

In addition, some packages need to have local compiles to ensure its
tailored to the hardware.

* Ubuntu is hardware-certified for more Laptops we use. (Gnome and
Unity have better support for ‘encrypted wifi’)

I'm not sure which brands you source, but I have found HP, Dell and
Lenovo's well supported. my new think pad worked perfectly out of the
box with 11.4.

On the server side, I am pretty confident openSUSE/SLES wins by a large

* Enterprise "Long Term Support" (LTS) version is actually the
standard disto with longer support cycles and is free (gets
maintenance updates for 3 years on the desktop version and 5 years on
the server version / Suse SLES subscription $350/year)

I suspect as an academic institution you might qualify for discounts.

* 6-month release cycle indicates that Ubuntu focuses more on keeping
software up-to-date.

With OBS you can updated software easily when needed. For KDE and Gnome
you can update to the latest versions pretty easily via OBS and the KDE
repos are well tested, if not supported officially. Gnome 3 is a bit
trickier at the moment, but I did not find it difficult to run latest
2.2x Gnome either on 11.2/11.3

* Ubuntu has a larger user community worldwide which is able to
produce more documentation

However, I think you will find the skill level and experience vastly
better in the openSUSE community. The included docs for openSUSE and
SLES are pretty well done IMO.

* better supported in cloud environments (EC2 AMIs, etc)
11.4 has AMI support out of the box and susestudio makes it dead easy
to create all kinds of images needed in cloud environments. ISO, VM etc..

* better supported with configuration management tools like puppet or chef.

Perhaps less need for this with Yast. But it depends on your environment.

Obviously some of the advantages are highly tailored to our
organization. I would be interested to hear what other advantages we
might find regarding openSUSE. For example, is there interest in more
active support of high performance computing technology in the future
(nfs/rdma, HPC distro using OSS schedulers etc)

Thanks much for your input.

I would note some of the very largest supercomputers in the world run
SLES. I suspect there is a good reason ;)
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