openSUSE community meets in The Hague

New Skies

Article from Issue 176/2015

The annual openSUSE conference in The Hague, The Netherlands, was the site for some important announcements about the future of the openSUSE project.

Figure 1: SUSE's Documentation Team lead Markus Feilner at his keynote. (C) Lars Vogt, CC BY-SA 4.0

The historic city known as The Hague is home to the International Court of Justice, the Dutch government, half a millions inhabitants, and one of the world's oldest universities. For the first week of May, The Hague also played host to the openSUSE 2015 conference [1], along with an annual summit for the Kolab groupware project [2]. Both communities showed up for some exciting discussions and plenty of big announcements.

The openSUSE conference included six tracks over four days (from May the 1st to 4th). More than 200 developers exchanged detailed technical information, as well as insights on strategic and organizational matters affecting the green chameleon's community.

The biggest news was the announcement of a new openSUSE [3] variant based on source code from SUSE's flagship distro SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) [4].

Figure 2: All the Geekos unite: The openSUSE team gathers at the end of the summit. Many participants had already left. (C) Lars Vogt, CC BY-SA 4.0

The openSUSE project currently produces a rolling release edition called Tumbleweed and a numbered release that is essentially a Tumbleweed snapshot. The new SLE-based openSUSE edition is intended for conservative power users who want the stable core of an enterprise-grade Linux without the cost and complexity of a subscription-style license. Launching a new SLE-core openSUSE edition will also give the Tumbleweed edition more freedom to chart its own course and pursue its recent focus on infrastructure and experimental technology. OpenSUSE users will have a choice between the numbered release based on SLE (starting with version 13.3) or a more free-wheeling Tumbleweed edition, which will retain the rolling release format.

This change means SUSE Enterprise core code will become part of the openSUSE project's Open Build Service [5] and will enjoy the benefits of automatic quality testing through openSUSE's innovative OpenQA testing system [6].

SUSE employee Stephan Kulow first announced the possibility of this change at the FOSDEM conference back in March, so SUSE insiders knew it was in the works, but the latest announcement confirms the change and offers some details that were missing from past descriptions.

Figure 3: Lots of green stuff to collect. (C) Markus Feilner, CC BY-SA 4.0

Most of the listeners seemed amused that the new SLE-based openSUSE still didn't have a name, although by the time you read this, the developers might have gotten around to naming it.

The openSUSE board showed strong support for the plan, encouraging developers to help. Richard Brown, chairman of the openSUSE board, explained that lots of the 130,000 users of SUSE 13.2 still want stable releases in the future, even though 13.2 is basically "only a snapshot of Tumbleweed." Nevertheless, Tumbleweed runs on about 14,000 machines (as counted by regular updates from the repositories) and "in a slow week (…) updates 146 packages, [brings] a new Kernel, (…) and provides three new snapshots" [7] Most users of openSUSE 13.2 and before, however, want a more stable, slower distribution that focuses on stability, not on new software. For example shortly before publication, Tumbleweed switched to the new Plasma 5 desktop, replacing the stable KDE 4 still in openSUSE. The new scenario offers a version of openSUSE with a core of the SLE software plus a choice of several different desktops. Look online for a video of Richard's keynote [7].

Other notable news includes SUSE's configuration management toolkit named Machinery – which, according to its website [8], supports "configuration discovery, system validation, and service migration." Machinery, which is based on the idea of a universal system description, already works on openSUSE 13.1, 13.2, and Tumbleweed.

Figure 4: Kolab's Aaron Seigo and Roundcube's Thomas Bruederli at the Kolab Summit. (C) Markus Feilner, CC BY-SA 4.0

Conference visitors got a sneak peek of openSUSE's new tablet and touch-enabled website. With openSUSE's tenth birthday approaching, the organizers announced that next year's openSUSE conference will take place in Nuremberg (openSUSE's coming home).

Also announced was a new project named Backports, a "central repository to collect all package builds for SLE" [9]. The Backports project aims to use the Build service as a convenient way to install pre-built open software on top of SLE [10].


The co-located summit for the open source groupware solution Kolab also had some big announcements. The biggest news was that Roundcube, the project's favorite integrated web mailer, will get lots of attention. Kolab Systems, the company behind the Kolab groupware solution, sparked a crowdfunding campaign to improve the quality and feature set of Roundcube. "This is one of the major tasks our company will be looking at in the next years," said Kolab Systems CEO Georg Greve. (Since the event, prospects have been looking good for Roundcube: The crowdfunding campaign raised $13,000 on the first day.)

Several other Kolab topics centered on integration, including Microsoft's Mail and Groupware API (MAPI) through OpenChange [11], used for ages in Exchange servers, real-time messaging, Office (LibreOffice), and especially WebODF solutions. An entire track dealt with the requirements of the healthcare sector, which is a natural topic for Kolab, because its focus has always been on security and data protection.

Figure 5: Kolab CEO Georg Greve announcing the call for participation and crowdfunding for the web mailer Roundcube. (C) Markus Feilner, CC BY-SA 4.0


  1. openSUSE Conference:
  2. Kolab:
  3. openSUSE:
  4. SLES:
  5. Open Build Service:
  6. "openQA" by Markus Feilner, Linux Magazine, issue 175, June 2015, pg. 38,
  7. Richard Brown's Keynote (video):
  8. Ludwig Nussel on Backports:
  9. The openSUSE Backports project for SLE12:
  10. Machinery:
  11. OpenChange:

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