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openSUSE Strategy Meeting – wrap up

June 1st, 2010 by

As in michl’s post announced a the openSUSE Board and some other community members met the past weekend in Nürnberg to have a comprehensive 2.5 days face to face meeting . The meeting was attended by Bryen Yunashko, Andreas Jaeger, Jan Weber, Pascal Bleser, Michael Loeffler and Pavol Rusnak (Hendrik Vogelsang and Rupert Horsttkötter were unfortunately unable to join) and lead and facilitated by Kurt Garloff.We’d like to tell you what we’ve done, what the outcome is and what the next steps should look alike. We had tons of very fruitful discussions and are much clearer about the strengths of openSUSE and how to create a strategy around those.

Beside of the usual meeting things (introduction, ground rules, goals of the meeting) we wrapped up the stuff we did over the last months during our weekly IRC meetings. So we concentrated on our users, the strength and weakness openSUSE has, the competition we face and our expectations for future changes in the way we use computers. When building a strategy, you acknowledge that you can’t be the best everywhere, you can’t be everything to everybody, if you want to be successful, so you need to choose your focus – the already existing strength might be a good start to focus on. Therefor we went through the SWOT analysis and summarized the the strengths we do have:

  • openSUSE distro works out of the box, comes with good hardware support and is known for good quality (stable and usable but not outdated)
  • openSUSE distro has areas in which we stand out such as YaST, zypper, tool chain etc.
  • openSUSE offers an ecosystem of tools around the distro such as openSUSE Build Service, openFATE, Bugzialla, Hermes etc.
  • we have and attract a technical savvy audience
  • high market share in Central Europe
  • Stable funding by Novell
  • Boosters team with their mantra: Grow community by enabling community
  • We’re the only distribution out there supporting multiple desktops out of the box
  • Linux is a growing market

To go down the path of a strategy we brain stormed competitive advantages which are things you can do better then your competition or things making you unique. After the brain storming we had around 40 single competitive advantages which we then grouped to clusters to find a focus. We found 6 clusters and a number of competitive advantages we couldn’t put into one cluster or which had relations to more then one cluster. We then tried to name them and create strategy statement around them. A strategy is a sentence or two describing what you want to achieve by excelling at what to serve whom. We can tell you that’s a tough task and we had a long discussion if such a statement isn’t too narrow for the openSUSE project. As the strategy statement only highlights the competitive advantages (and some of the most important activities directly connected to them),  it is not a good description of all the things we do in such a broad project and with such a broad community. We thus decided not to use such narrow statements as the primary description of our proposed future strategy, but to come up with more descriptive and  elaborate proposals.
Where did we end up? We ended up having 3 possible strategies which should be worked out to our community in smaller groups during this week and be published on June 8 for further discussion. The strategies are currently in a very raw format but we’d like to share the headlines already with you:

  • openSUSE the home for developers (distro, tools, apps)
  • openSUSE the base for derivatives of any kind (eg. openSUSE Education, openSUSE XYZ)
  • openSUSE for the mobile world (be the glue between mobile services (clouds) and mobile consumers)

After we’ve published the proposals we’d like to have this discussion open for 30 days, use the feedback to enhance or possibly change the proposals s and then having a vote by openSUSE members which strategy is the right one to go with. For that the openSUSE Board will define a pass criteria so we have a clear winner.

That’s it for today. We had an exhausting weekend but the outcome is pretty good and more stuff, way more detail will be there soon to define together the path openSUSE should take in the future.

Please stay tuned to June 8 when we will present our proposals to the community and open up for 30 days of public discussion.

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22 Responses to “openSUSE Strategy Meeting – wrap up”

  1. caf4926

    Really interesting submission. Thanks for keeping us all in the loop. Nice to know of all the effort being put in. Hopefully the forum team and it’s users can play a part in making openSUSE the great OS it truly is.

  2. Jeff Bankston

    I am very interested in the outcome of this conference, I have been using SuSE since its very earliest days. I recently installed and am currently using Ubuntu v9.10, and I can tell you it works better than SuSE, recognizes and uses all my hardware in my Dell Precision including the AT&T chipset for the broadband which SuSE doesn’t.

    Hopefully, this conference will recognize that SuSE lags Ubuntu, significantly in some areas, and SuSE can regain its leadership role in Linux.



  3. Chris

    “openSUSE the base for derivatives of any kind” I just hope you aren’t serious on this since that sounds like doing it as buntu with its one zillion of the same shit in a different wrap up style which is plain pointless IMHO.

    Projects like the education one are surely great but they are merely a big repo (that can be used from “base” openSUSE too) and some different defaults, so it is surely a great thing but nothing that should affect the strategy of openSUSE besides it should be easy to create derivatives if one likes to do so.

    From my POV I would prefer “home for developers” since making them comfy automatically will result in them contributing improvements. Besides that I surely would like to see some ARM release since those rock with netbooks / tablets.

    • jjc

      I think we need to be careful about remaining the same closed shop and only allowing developers to develop what they want. It should be about what users want. We tried the other way for much too long and suddenly it seems like linux is Ubuntu.You need to ask why?

      Sure Education needs to be there and not just cos someone else builds it after release of the base but because opensuse thinks it is important and part of the strategy. If my kids use Ubuntu education then I guess my efforts will move to learning Ubuntu and I will drop opensuse. You may say “Ok we won’t miss you”, but soon you may find it not worth your while developing cos there’ll be no users. More importantly guess which distribution my kids will be used to using? Lets embrace the new whilst preserving the good of the old. The comments made by StevenK also make very good sense.

      At the weekend My friend from India was very impressed with my linux installation on my (opensuse 11.2 + Compiz) laptop which is running Sun Virtual box with windows xp as a guest. He asked me to give him a copy of the distro and after thinking ABOUT IT FOR A DAY I gave him the latest Ubuntu 10.04 dvd which came with my linuxformat subscription.

      I could see how much of my time I would have to devote to helping him (not helping is a good way to make sure they never look at linux again but the time devoted to this must be realistic) so Ubuntu would be easier.

      By the way another gripe is why I have to install win xp because software like SAPGUI Java for linux will not allow you to right-click to create objects but the windows client will. Does this indicate that novell themselves do not use SAP or that they do not use linux? Can we please have some pressure put on some of these organizations to look after the linux user. SAP likes to trumpet it’s opensource/linux credentials yet gives the linux user a crippled interface to the SAP system.

  4. I really appreciated this discussion, and let’s wait the actual proposals to actually understand what’s going on. At the moment I can just say I hope the headlines are a bit misleading and/or not exclusive because they look either too specific (for developers / for mobile world) or too generic (for any kind of derivative).

  5. StevenK

    Let me say up front that OpenSuse is and will be my OS of choice and not because it has Novell branding. I looked at the SWOT behind this strategy meeting and while agreeing with most of the categories and points would like share these few thoughts.

    While correctly stated, I have to wonder about the focus when “works out of the box” is deemed a high and chief strength given the fact that market expectations requires no less. Documentation is lagging behind and having mixed coordination of where modules store and install adds to the developers confusion let alone a “user”. You may have a large “experienced and intelligent base” but when the documentation and “description” of modules is lacking, weak or containing errors a small project has now become a bigger and more time consuming project.

    Market share, this may develop as a backwash or not at all. The consumer base is already moving away from the desktop, laptop and other favors and the corporate world faced with growing security issues is looking to “Thin Clients” and Cloud separation. I see the “Gang of Many” trying to close the door on Microsoft’s domination by moving onto the “Smart” phone platform and setting standards and market share that it(MS) can not touch … and about time.

    Those “W”eakness surrounding the “New” base are the true huddles of marketing. As long as the “insider/club” mentality exist and the willingness to shame someone for not using a command line to achieve their task, this or any other O/S will be rejected. If there is one aspect of Window Systems it is the “ease for users” and “complexity for administrators” that quickly became the “norm” for acceptance and might be behind the popularity of Ubuntu. Most users are looking for “tools” to complete tasks and “automation” of those tasks to achieve more productivity in a corporate world where mantra is “time is money” and “quickness” is an advantage.

    I have passed CD’s and LiveCD’s to people to only find that unless I was there to hold their hand the disc never found it’s way into the machine. Corporate users buy for the home what they use at work. They want to find files on their machines but care less if there are twenty-five options to making that list. It has been stated that “Unix/Linux” was made for “Networking” and “Always up”; most users understand “Networking and Network” even less than their own operating system.

    They do understand “Find / Locate” concept. They want to find and locate all the files and references that they have to “panda’s” or the “new building project”. Every URL, PDF, DOC, TXT, JPEG etc … search … tell me who’s happy with searching KDE or the documentation from a gui. I’m very disappointed with the aggregate search as supplied.

    I see OpenSuse with two faces, the “Community(Developer)” face and the “World-User” face. I see the Community at times self-centered and not developing with the “World-User” in mind and I see the “World-User” not understanding the benefits of change … the benefits of OpenSource.

    I’d like to see OpenSuse credit those companies, and boldly, that have taken the time to associate themselves with the OS and to build or share driver information. What is the carrot for companies, like users, to engage with OpenSource and OpenSuse?

    • TomS.

      I think Steven has summed up my thoughts quite well. OpenSUSE has two distinct audiences that don’t understand the needs of each other at times. For both developers and users alike there needs to be a common sense consistency that is not there now.

  6. I haven’t checked out the most recent Ubuntu or Fedora releases, but I’d say 11.3 will be better than they are, because it comes after them. But they’re on a six month cycle and openSUSE is on an eight month cycle. So they essentially get two releases out between 11.3 and the next one. That I think is a problem. Any chance of pulling the eight months down? For example, how about a seven month cycle for the release after 11.3, then six months after that?

  7. dragonbite

    I put down my ideas in a forum post here : http://forums.opensuse.org/community/soapbox/439401-where-do-i-see-suse-enterprise-opensuse.html

  8. Hi, OK, Ubuntu is a rather good distro. But that depends which PC you have. My PC works fine using LVM, but Ubuntu Live CD does not support this. You have to use alternate CD. And then I lack sound. So Ubuntu is a great product, but I like Suse much more. One strong point of SuSE is the look and feel. SuSE just looks great and feels fine.Mandriva has that too. Ubuntu is a lot less “feel good” , to my opinion.
    Fedora is great as well, but only uses open source, so lacking the much needed flash.You can easily obtain flash if you run a -bit PC, but with a bit you are in trouble.
    Yes, Fedora can do it. If they want. But they have theis philosofy.
    Madriva has a bit the same illness.
    Slackware is in fact the best distro of all, but lacks usability. Just nothing works. Even burning a CD with k3b does not work.

    To my opinion SuSE is the best distro, fojlowed by Mandriva (really really close…), Fedora and Ubuntu.

    Concearning the release cycle. Go for quality. Less for quantity. Take your time.


    Fedora is great as well, but only uses open source, so lacking the much needed flash.You can easily obtain flash if you run a 32-bit PC, but with a 64bit you are in trouble.

  10. Janis K.

    Read the wrap up and SWOT, about time for a little soulsearching because opensuse is starting to slip.

    I used to buy every SuSE release starting with 5.8 until it went opnsuse and a couple then too. I used to install it for other people who wanted an alternative to Windows but lately I find that I was getting tired of apologizing for things that simply did not “work out of the box”, you know, java in Konqueror, videos, Skype in 64 bit and so on. Kind of a waste of resources installing a 32 bit OS on a 64 bit screamer just to get Skype to work …

    I’m still using opensuse but but for other people I now install LinuxMint, KDE version as the implementation is pretty good, less headaches and everything works out of the box …

    I would like to see an end to this endless rush to get new versions out and simply fix everything in the present version, incremental upgrades might be the answer, but only when everything works …

    • Anixx

      > Kind of a waste of resources installing a 32 bit OS on a 64 bit screamer just to get Skype to work …

      I have OpenSUSE 11.2 64-bit and Skype works perfectly.

  11. Bill

    I think you need to look and analyze the competition and see where their strengths are and how openSuse compares to those strengths. Also, if usage numbers matter then discern what matters to users (Ubuntu=ease of use, Fedora=bleeding edge) and what doesn’t, at least to large number of users (OBS, lxde, xfce). And finally there’s the dislike factor – why do some users disdain, avoid and trash it (simply put – Mono and Microsoft).

    And as to derivatives – these appear to be repackaging, not enhancing – not like what Ubuntu begets.

  12. roeland

    there are a few reasons people choose a particular set…

    1) availability of codecs et al
    2) people seem to think that MS is evil
    3) yast

    The first is of course no problem. It takes a minute to have the stuff work on multimedia. However, it seems hard and difficult for some people
    (and it’s understandeable that Novell doesn’t want to take the risk)

    The second is something that is a gut feeling and not based on normal reasoning. What’s wrong with being able to use heterogenous stuff?

    The third: people still think they only can use oS, SLED or SLES with the use of YaST.

  13. Pascual

    openSUSE LTS ??

    Nop. 18 months is not enough for the real world.

    A SLES clone like Centos??

    Nop. openSUSE is not the choice for serious developers.


    Yes, but others are very close (or yet better)

  14. Ruud

    Ubuntu is much easier then Opensuse. It works out of the box and uses deb packages, imo the most common used and best package management. I Tried Opensuse a few times, but the simplicity Ubuntu offers is just not there. It’s one of the worst distro’s around.

  15. Nicholas Buckner

    opensuse is pretty awesome but the one thing i don’t like is that the repositories are quite limited. I have to use the suse website inorder to find packages or use zypper which any mainstream user would not be able to do. And second of all almost no one actually cares about open source. i like linux because its FREE and i save £70 not because its open source and friendly and all the other crap. i choose linux because its faster and easier to install apps then windows, NOT because it is open source. I don’t care if i use propriety software, AS LONG AS IT WORKS THE BEST then i will use it, IF ITS OPEN SOURCE OR NOT.