Mailinglist Archive: opensuse-factory (1193 mails)

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[opensuse-factory] Comparing enterprise and community distros
I really want to understand this better, and if I can, help to
formulate a clear, concise explanation of the relationship between SUSE
and openSUSE. I work at SUSE myself, after all, and nobody explained it
to me!

I assumed that it was comparable to the way that the 2 other Linux
vendors that target the Linux market do it. I was apparently dead
wrong in this, and I'm sorry that I annoyed people with my wrongness.

I want to get it straight.


So, for comparison, here's the way I understand how the competitors'
models are.

As I see it, there are 3 enterprise Linux vendors out there:

#1, at least in size and money: Red Hat, with RHEL, Fedora and CentOS

#2, maybe biggest in mindshare but not making much money from it:
Canonical, with Ubuntu

#3, but making a good business and product from it: SUSE, with SLE and

At home, I run Ubuntu. But they've killed off my favourite desktop,
Unity, so I may well switch to openSUSE soon. I've been running Ubuntu
since it came out, when I switched from SUSE Linux Professional. (I
mostly ran review copies, because I regularly reviewed SUSE and Red Hat
for UK magazines such as PC Pro and Personal Computer World).

Ubuntu was much smaller and easier to install, and it ran the snazzy new
GNOME 2 desktop. (I loved KDE 1, tolerated KDE 2 and found KDE 3
intolerably over-complex and fiddly, so I was looking for something


Ubuntu's model is easy. It's small-F free. It's paid for by Mark
Shuttleworth, who personally made 2/3 of a billion US$ when he sold
Thawte to Verisign. Ubuntu is his way of giving something back to the
FOSS world: an easy, friendly, end-user desktop OS to rival Windows,
free of charge.

Derived from Debian with extra integration work, non-free drivers and
firmware, and updated components.

New releases every 6 months, April and October; updates available for 9
months. "Version number" is the last 2 digits of the year of release
plus the month of release.

Every even-numbered year, the April release is a Long Term Support
release, and gets updates for 3 years on the desktop and 5 years on
servers. Still free of charge.

Canonical sells support, but it's never turned a profit and is still
funded by Shuttleworth. There's no enterprise version or anything: one
size fits all, but if you want support and consultancy, it's there for
a price.


Red Hat

Used to sell a distro and merchandise. Switched to an
enterprise-centric model around 2000. Now there are 3 product lines:

RHEL. Enterprise distro, long support lifetime. Technically doesn't
cost money but you can only run it if you have 1 support subscription
per machine. Source code distributed for free, but binaries only
available to paying customers.

No fixed release schedule: major releases about every 2-3 years, point
releases about every 6 months.

Fedora: free community-maintained, community-supported. Releases
roughly every 6 months, with an incrementing integer version number.
Updates available for approx 12-13 months, i.e. until after {version+2)
is released. No stable or long-term releases. No paid support.

All GPL/FOSS, so doesn't include any nonfree drivers or firmware at
all. If your hardware doesn't work, tough.

Red Hat sponsors development but as of 2016 announced that community
contributions had just overtaken in-house ones -- 40% RH staff, 60%

Periodically a snapshot of Fedora is taken and forms the basis of the
next RHEL major release.

So essentially Fedora is a periodic alpha-test for future releases of

That was it. Simple, clear, easy.

Several groups downloaded the sources of RHEL, compiled and distributed
it as a free community distro, notably CentOS, Scientific Linux, White
Box Linux. These were essentially identical to RHEL but with the name
changed. Oracle did the same to create Oracle Unbreakable Linux, as a
hostile attempt to reduce RH's share price, possibly with a view to
acquisition. This did not work but eventually contributed to the death
of Solaris, acquired along with Sun.

Then RH muddied the waters by buying in CentOS. Now RH officially
offers a free, stable distro _as well as_ its commercial stable
distro and free unstable one.



This is the one I apparently got wrong.

My impression was as follows:

It's comparable to RH. Novell bought SUSE and changed the product
lineup to something resembling RH's. The baseline product was made
free-of-charge, a separate, super-stable enterprise distro was spun off
from it.

SLE, the enterprise distro. Slow release cycle, stable, supported,
costs money -- traditional software licensing model, comparable to but
not identical to RH's support-subscription model.

And openSUSE, the free, community-supported only version. Used to be a
continuation of the venerable and time-honoured SUSE Linux Professional
product, with continuing version numbers even, but then a few years
ago, was split in 2.

This has 2 flavours:

* Tumbleweed, a rolling release flavour. No version number.
* Leap, with periodic stable versions and a finite update cycle -- I'd
guessed based on snapshots of Tumbleweed, as Fedora releases are of
Rawhide, Debian releases are of Sid, and Ubuntu is of Debian.
Version numbers frankly a bit of a mystery.

So the equivalences are:

openSUSE Tumbleweed ~= Fedora (specifically, Rawhide, the
rolling-release pre-alpha version comparable to Debian "Sid")
openSUSE Leap ~= CentOS (fixed release cycle, stable-ish, no commercial

I assumed that SUSE sponsors openSUSE development the same way that RH
sponsors Fedora -- it (until very recently, at least) is mostly
developed by SUSE staff and is the testbed for future releases of SLE.


But now I have been told, strongly, that this is not correct.

That openSUSE is far more independent of SUSE than Fedora is of RH.
That in some ways it's almost a rival or an officially-sanctioned fork.

So what _is_ relationship of SUSE to openSUSE?

Does SUSE sponsor openSUSE?

If not, who does? Who's paying for it? Cui bono -- who benefits?

Who does most of the development? What's the ratio of SUSE to non-SUSE
contributors? Is that tracked? Is it public info?

Which distro is upstream from which?

Is it akin to RH:

Tumbleweed (is the upstream of) SLE (which is the upstream of) Leap


Fedora → RHEL → CentOS


Oh, and for comparison...


Linux Mint

Derived from Ubuntu, but adds in more proprietary codecs and so on for
a more seamless experience. More recently, swapped out the unpopular
Mac-like Unity desktop. Initially did its own fork of GNOME 3,
Cinnamon, which gives it a Windows-like makeover. Also "adopted" the
GNOME 2 fork, Maté, so now offers a choice of 2 Windows-like desktops,
one for high-end machines with hardware OpenGL, one for low-end ones
and VMs.

Gecko Linux is to openSUSE what Mint is Ubuntu. :-)

So, is this all totally wrong? If so, what's wrong, and how can I fix

Liam Proven - Technical Writer, SUSE Linux s.r.o.
Corso II, Křižíkova 148/34, 186-00 Praha 8 - Karlín, Czechia
Email: lproven@xxxxxxxx - Office telephone: +420 284 241 084

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