Toward a long-term SUSE-based distribution
A group of SUSE Linux users put plans in motion last week to create a free, community-managed server distribution that maintains compatibility with Novell's enterprise offerings, but guarantees the long-term-support not provided by openSUSE. The result, said organizers, would be similar to the relationship between CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and would ultimately be beneficial to Novell. There are numerous practical difficulties to be overcome in the creation of this distribution, though, and the form that this distribution might take is not yet clear.
The idea of a free SUSE-based Linux distribution suitable for server use has cropped up more than once in the past; what spurred action this time was the August 14th announcement that openSUSE was moving from a 24-month to an 18-month maintenance period. Boyd Lynn Gerber, a consultant who works with the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and Desktop (SLED) products and participates in the openSUSE project, voiced concern over the change, especially for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) without the financial resources to purchase SLES and SLED support contracts (which start at $799 and $120 per year, respectively). For comparison, SLES and SLED receive general updates for five years, and security patches for seven.
Gerber argued that shortening the supported lifespan of openSUSE widened the gap in the product line between openSUSE and SLES/SLED, potentially making it hard for small businesses to smoothly transition into the enterprise line.