Why is there no Open Source SLES ?

Submitted by dag on Thu, 2007/11/08 - 17:35

Fabian pointed to an interesting article from a Red Hat engineer about CentOS and Red Hat's position. An interesting question popped up that I asked myself before: "Why is there no SLES alternative distribution ?". Given all the benefits a free Enterprise Linux brings to Red Hat, Novell must be eager to want to tap into this resource, right ?

One comment suggested that Novell did not release SRPMs and therefor it was impossible to create a free SLES clone. Reality seems a bit different: Novell does release SRPMs.

There are a few reasons why there is no Open Source SLES alternative.

One of them is that the SLES community is much smaller and more aimed at proprietary software. Novell itself is promoting Mixed Source and promotes its own proprietary software on top of SLES (also see OES). This obviously scares part of the community away. The deal with Microsoft obviously does as well. As a result Novell is big within Enterprises with little community people, and these are not the kind of people that would spend their free time rebuilding packages and do QA.

Another reason is that Novell is not in favor of such a project (even though people from within Novell _and_ people in the SLES community disagree with management) because it fears it will take away some of the profit and Novell made a big risk by taking the Linux route, they cannot afford to make it fail.

And Novell considers OpenSUSE their free SLES alternative even though it does not match the Enterprise Linux definition (read: long term support) and therefor does not attract the same kind of people that CentOS does.

In comparison, Red Hat actively worked on making sure that projects based on RHEL know exactly what to remove/change and made it easy to replace those parts that contain the Red Hat trademark.

All of the reasons why Novell doesn't have its own CentOS are real reasons why people choose Red Hat over Novell. At least some people around Novell envy Red Hat for CentOS, because used in the right light, CentOS is a big selling point for adopting RHEL.

All in all, CentOS provides a big community resource that RHEL people can equally tap into. It is a win-win situation, but I prefer to call it a symbiosis.

I hope Novell realises sooner than later what it is missing out on and changes its mind about a free SLES product and a thriving SLES community.

No open source SLES?

[flame]Why would you want to use something as painfull as SLES if you can use better open source distro's?[/flame]

Most people I know use SLES a) with proprietary software or b) because they have to (company policy) and in that case they usually don't use things like YAST and compile there own software. (which is rather strange, if you give money to get an "enterprise linux", you probably want to use their -very limited list- of supported packages. Otherwise you could as well use another distro...)

Open source SLES

I agree that it would be interesting to have such a open source SLES but you can only achieve this if you have a good community to make all these efforts.
Because it takes a lot of effort (very often with less or no honour). Afaik there are currently not many openSUSE (community) people interested in doing this. Although with the current opensuse build system it should become easier to make this possible.

If people are interested in making this open source SLES possible I'm always interested in joining that effort.

SLES is Open Source

SLES is Open Source.

What you should ask is why is the no gratis SLES. But then again SLES is gratis (support is not). Just download it from www.novell.com all you need is to register. And Novell let you download the binary distribution of SLES. But RedHat does not allow you to download the binaries for RHEL. So CentOS compile the source rpm to binary rpm as you can't get them from RedHat. Why should some one download the source rpm from Novell and compile them to binary rpm's. When anyone can download them directly from Novell?

Claes

You are correct, however...

The title is indeed misleading. With Open Source SLES I actually meant an Open Source SLES community that supports the distribution.

It is true that you can download the SLES binaries from Novell, likewise you can get RHEL binaries from Red Hat as well. But what you don't get from Novell and Red Hat are the security updates, support and community.

That is what CentOS adds and an 'Open Source' SLES is lacking:

- Guaranteed security updates for a period of 7 years
- Additional packages (albeit the OpenSUSE buildsystem may fix this !)
- A flourishing community and userbase

The offer from Novell and Red Hat may vanish and is therefor no substitute for what CentOS brings into the picture.

So strictly speaking you are right, but then you are not seeing the whole equation.

Some Points are misleading: -

Some Points are misleading:

- CentOS does not guarantee updates, they are free to stop releasing at any time (they are volunteers, right?)
- The CentOS guys could stop releasing and use their name and homepage for something else, so you can't even release the CentOS updates yourself. You would have to use another name and gain the trust of the CentOS community
- Red Hat and Novell guarantee updates for RHEL / SLES
- If Red Hat would stop releasing updates, CentOS would have to stop releasing too (or evolve into a distro like Debian, if they have the ressources), i.e. CentOS users depend on Red Hat

Nevertheless do I like CentOS and the idea of openSLES

No gratis SLES

The only issue not mentioned in comments is the Novell mentality and purpose.

Novell is attempting to use Suse GNU/Linux as base for as much proprietary technology as possible, just short of the legal boundary against infringing the relevant licenses.

The question was never a technical issue, and therefore gratis SLES is unlikely to ever gain a worthwhile foothold, since many who would form a "community" around OpenSLES would very quickly hit big firewalls from Novell in making progress, thus become discouraged and eventually migrate back to other "enterprise" oriented gratis distributions.

Linux Fragmentation hurts

At my workplace, our datacentre is 99.99% Linux. Our distribution of choice has always been SLES but over time we have had to install CentOS, RedHat, OpenSuse for various reasons (some commercial apps required platforms, etc).

As part of looking at what to do with this dogs breakfast, we are seriously considering going to Solaris x86, whether it is OpenSolaris or genuine Solaris is still up in the air.

If there's someone that understands how to build and support enterprise operating systems, it's Sun.

OpenSLES

I have asked this question in the past and I just can't understand why it has not happened. When YAST was not open I could see why.

I for one would be most happy with a SLES centos equiv. Having LDAP integrated from the start in a smooth simple fashion that allows plugins for samba, DNS and DHCP make it a joy to work with.

Steve

Well. If you really want to

Well.

If you really want to create a SLES' clone, you can. Since SLES is just a more mature clone of Opensuse, all you have to do is to clone Opensuse.

You can also DL SLES and update your whole system with opensuse's repo and it's pretty stable too if you take care about what you install.

And don't forget one thing: SLES and RHEL aim two market.

SLES, with trade agreement with MS and better proprietary support, aims enterprise who want to get rid of MS without risking too much.
Logically, the product that Novell's offer is less open.
And please takes note that SLES' sale have climb in a faster manner since the agreement with microsoft.

>Reality seems a bit

>Reality seems a bit different: Novell does release SRPMs.

url?

Go here for the SLED SRPMs

You can find the SLED SRPMs without being a paying customer or having a license from here:

ftp://forgeftp.novell.com/sledsource/

Enjoy !

they don't publish security

they don't publish security updates / bugfixes. the only SRPMs they publish are the original release SRPMs and SP-SRPMs. Also, rebranding is not as easy as with RHEL.

SRPMS

AFAIK, one need to buy

AFAIK, one need to buy support contract to get access to these urls!

Maybe

Did you try ? I am not sure.

But even if they were not publically available (which I do not know), anyone can distribute those (that can legally be distributed) and strip the trademark information, similarly to CentOS. All you need is people that have a support contract anyway (or you could ask for donations to buy a support contract).

Sure, Novell could help by making them publically available and by giving the rules to play by (which according to Pascal Bleser they are doing now), but they do not have to in order for a community to do it anyway.

But you are correct, if they are not available without a cost, it may be relevant to the reasons why there is no free or Open Source SLES community today.

Yes, you need a subscription

You indeed need a subscription to access the source packages. You can get by with a temporary 60 days subscription for free, but that obviously expires your access to updates after the period.

Regardless of this, a community could received these packages and updates from a Novell customer and rebuild them in an automated fashion.

However this is a difference with Red Hat that may influence the reason why there is no OpenSLES today and maybe the first act to get to an OpenSLES is ask Novell to release the SRPMs that are unencumbered.

Quite much of a flame

Hey Dag.

First of all, as opposed to Redhat, Novell is pushing several options, from completely OSS (openSUSE) to half proprietary (OES, which is SLES + Netware in a Xen VM) to 99% proprietary (e.g. Zenworks, based on Red Carpet code for package management AFAIK).

"Novell itself is promoting Mixed Source and promotes its own proprietary software on top of SLES (also see OES)."
Well, OES is one of the many options, and it's for backwards compatibility. Netware is hardly a strategic direction for Novell.

"This obviously scares part of the community away."
I honestly don't think that it's driving people from the community away. It definitely doesn't as far as openSUSE is concerned. And, after all, SLED, SLES and OES are based on openSUSE (including from a technical point of view).

"The deal with Microsoft obviously does as well."
Oh dear, not that BS again.
As far as business customers are concerned, I really don't think it's putting them away from SLES/SLED/OES -- rather the opposite.
And as far as the community is concerned, then we're talking about openSUSE and not about SLE*.
As said above, it's not the same ecosystem as with Red Hat/Fedora/CentOS.

There is no "community around SLES", because openSUSE is the community-driven project, and openSUSE is the base for SLES.

"As a result Novell is big within Enterprises with little community people, and these are not the kind of people that would spend their free time rebuilding packages and do QA."
Well, yes, that's correct if you consider that SLES is supposed to have a community on its own, as with CentOS. But again, openSUSE is the community project, and from that point of view, I'd hardly say that openSUSE has "little community people".

It's a different model, just don't compare it as-is to RHEL/CentOS.

"Another reason is that Novell is not in favor of such a project"
I'm not sure that's true. At least, I've never seen a position against (nor in favour) of such a project. Rather sounds like your interpretation (which is fine, but I don't think there are any likewise statements from Novell's management). I might be wrong though, but I'll poke around ;)

"And Novell considers OpenSUSE their free SLES alternative even though it does not match the Enterprise Linux definition (read: long term support) and therefor does not attract the same kind of people that CentOS does."
True. But frankly, "Enterprise Linux" first of all means support (as in incidents/trouble tickets, 24/7, hotline) to me, much higher on my list than long term. I'm not saying long term support for security fixes and such isn't important, but it's definitely not the only aspect.

"In comparison, Red Hat actively worked on making sure that projects based on RHEL know exactly what to remove/change and made it easy to replace those parts that contain the Red Hat trademark."
Cool thing. Note that trademark removal and such is going to be addressed at some point, it's somewhere on the TODO list ;)
Some tools are already available.

"All in all, CentOS provides a big community resource that RHEL people can equally tap into. It is a win-win situation, but I prefer to call it a symbiosis."
Certainly. But I don't understand why you need to shoot on Novell to do CentOS marketing.
Although I deeply respect everyone involved into CentOS (and Red Hat, and Fedora, and Debian, and ...), I'm not sure whether CentOS is that much of a reason for RHEL's market dominance. There are many other reasons, e.g. the fact that RHEL has been there for quite some time before Novell positioned SLES in the US certainly plays a much more important role. Or the fact that some think that RHEL is just better (I'm not saying they're wrong, but others think that SLES is better ;)).

"I hope Novell realises sooner than later what it is missing out on and changes its mind about a free SLES product and a thriving SLES community."
So do I, it would certainly be a win for anyone involved into opensource at large and more specifically wrt the openSUSE community, but I'm not sure whether it's the most compelling option. At least, providing LTS for openSUSE seems more straightforward to me.

cheers,
Pascal

nah ;)

About the title of my post above: I obviously don't mean it (as anyone can see from the content of my reply), but I wanted to be on /. and digg just once in my life ;D

Not the intention to flame

Pascal,

It was not intended as a flame, but in most of the points you bring up you talk about OpenSUSE. This post was specifically about SLES (even though I mentioned OpenSUSE as it is often brought up during the same discussions).

Let me answer a few of the things you bring up:

  • I mentioned the deal with Microsoft not to BS, but it does give another cling to SLES (compared to RHEL) and although it may be good for business I doubt it helps to attract an Open Source community.
  • OpenSUSE is a different product I was specifically talking Enterprise Linux here.
  • It may be true that there are no public statements, but walking around on a trade floor with a CentOS shirt does help to hear opinions (from SLES users, Novell sales people and others). CentOS is a selling point for choosing RHEL (as well as CentOS of course), but hard to quantify.
  • I plan to do another blog article about what Enterprise Linux is and why it is important and the long term support is the most convincing argument. Whether you think that fits into the definition is an opinion like this article is my opinion :-)
  • My opinion (on anything) may be wrong but I can change my view based on new arguments, experience or evidence.
  • Red Hat of course had market share before CentOS existed, but CentOS is adding value on top of Red Hat's offering that no doubt is helping Red Hat keep its dominance.
  • There are benefits of having a free Open Source SLES that OpenSUSE does not have. LTS is one of them. I know SLES is based on OpenSUSE, but if it is not identical one cannot be sure if binary compatibility or expect the same solutions to work for both. I did not mention Fedora because the same issues are involved. I don't think it is a substitute.

    Now, this blog article was not a flame. I simply tried to find out why I think this is the case. None of the reasons are set in stone, things can still turn around. I absolutely mean the last paragraph and maybe I just hope that it could (re)start a discussion within the community and within Novell.

Confusing conflicting message here.

How is it possible that the author here is spouting openness here yet creates his blog on a white background with grey font color???

He complains that that there isn't some sort of open SLES (which there is, it's called openSUSE... duh!) But plays a double standard by intentionally excluding readers who have visual impairments/blindness with his childish choice of layout.

If you want to encourage others to be more open with their products, start with yourself first. Make your blogs readable by EVERYONE!

True about the colors

You are correct about the colors, I will have to fix that. To my defense, this is a vanilla Drupal theme. The gray will go, thanks for the feedback.

However I do not agree with you that OpenSUSE is the Free or Open Source SLES. They are not exactly compatible. You do not get the same product. Nor will you have the same reproducability of problems. Nor is it supported for 7 years.

These things may not matter to you and you are free to your opinion, but it is nowhere close to what CentOS is to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and I am confident that it makes a big difference in the marketplace.

I also do not agree that I am childish, but that is also an opinion and you have a right to your opinion :-)

so many misconceptions

I agree that an OSS sles clone would be good for suse market share. Various people have opined that opensuse is the oss clone os sles, but that is simply not the case.

How can I put this simply: opensuse is to sles as fedora is to rhel. In other words, while there is clearly a family resemblance, sles and opensuse are different distros.

What is needed is a sles equivalent of centos, which is nowhere to be found. I've thought a lot about this recently myself, and maybe it's an idea whose time has come.

Novell not opposed

Novell is certainly not opposed to it. Not pushing it (as of now), but not opposed to it either.

The src.rpms are freely available for download, including for online updates, but not for a very few packages containing proprietary or at least not really opensource software (such as Java and a few fonts).

So.. except for Java (where updates could be backported from openSUSE I guess, it's just a package around Sun's binaries for versions below 7), there's nothing from stopping anyone who has enough time to do it ;)

"The src.rpms are freely

"The src.rpms are freely available for download, including for online updates"

What is the URL where the src rpms for online updates are freely available? The links supplied for updates so far are for support account holders.

I thought was so obvious!!

1. SLE 10 is binary compatible with SUSE Linux 10.1
2. SLE is available as an iso for free download and 60 day free support, RHEL is not available for download.
3. SLE costs between 50 - 70% cheaper than RHEL (Basic-ES-AS). IT staff drink more coffee than the cost of SLE subscription.
4. SLE includes clustering and other tools which require additional payment in RH.
5. Subjective point but openSUSE is more stable and polished than fedora, infact it is very close in finish to SLE than fedora is to RHEL.

All these make it quite pointless to have openSLE.

Apparently not because....

1. Irrelevant, it is not supported for 7 years so people cannot run OpenSUSE 10.1 without having to upgrade.
2. RHEL as well, but also irrelevant because you do not get security updates. You cannot use that for a server or a desktop if your support (read: security updayes) runs out after 2 months.
3. We are not (only) talking about IT staff here. We are talking about students, home users, starting companies or my mom.
4. Yes, but it is shipped for free with CentOS. If you buy it from Red Hat you are buying support from Red Hat. The software is free. (speech and beer)
5. You are forced to upgrade OpenSUSE every 2 years (that is if you started using it as soon as it comes out. In real life people do not start using a product when it comes out, nor are they upgrading the moment support (read: security fixes) runs out.

So all the points you bring up are irrelevant to the discussion. CentOS has a 2+ million install-base (and that is not an estimate, reality is likely a multiplication of that number)

The fact that after installation your system does not need a forced upgrade for 7 years to have security updates is important in almost every scenario. Except if you want to run the latest and greatest you can opt in to upgrade to a newer release, but you do not have to.

Fedora, OpenSUSE and plain Ubuntu do not have that, only RHEL/CentOS, SLES and Ubuntu LTS offer that.

And only SLES does not have a free alternative and does not have an Open Source community. No free updates, no extra packages repository (OpenSUSE buildsystem could change this).

I am not against Fedora, OpenSUSE or plain Ubuntu. Clearly they have a userbase that is thriving and there are plenty people that want the latest and greatest. But an Enterprise Linux is not an exclusive need for companies, it is a need for everyone who just wants to use a computer and is not forced in a yearly upgrade path.

Mostly non-technical people.

RE: Apparently not because....

Having read all the comments here I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring.

I have to agree with Dag. Although SLE(S)(D) are BASED on openSUSE they are different distributions. You cannot compare CentOS/RHEL with openSUSE/SLES.

CentOS is built and maintained from RHEL source, there is a 1-1 relationship between the two.

OpenSUSE is not built and maintained from SLES source. The relationship is more like Fedora/RHEL.

SLES includes features not available in openSUSE; full support for EVMS (not just in code but also in YaST/AutoYaST), OpenWBEM/CIM agents and Sun and IBM jvms to name a few off the top of my head. These features and others are also dependencies for OES2.

BTW, OES2 is NOT NetWare running in a Xen vm. Its a complete linux port and bundling of traditional NetWare technologies i.e NCP server, eDirectory, NSS (Novell Storage Services), Novell Cluster Services, NetStorage, iFolder etc etc etc

You cannot access SLES updates without a subscription despite the opinions of some here. You can access src for the original shipping SLES10 rpms but that is kind of useless considering they're nearly two years old. Access to current src is part of your subscription.

Getting back to Dag's original post, an open source SLES would be built and maintained from SLES src and to quote Dag "That is what CentOS adds and an 'Open Source' SLES is lacking".

Cheers
--Maurice--

The only issue not mentioned

The only issue not mentioned in comments is the Novell mentality and purpose.

Novell is attempting to use Suse GNU/Linux as base for as much proprietary technology as possible, just short of the legal boundary against infringing the relevant licenses.

The question was never a technical issue, and therefore gratis SLES is unlikely to ever gain a worthwhile foothold, since many who would form a "community" around OpenSLES would very quickly hit big firewalls from Novell in making progress, thus become discouraged and eventually migrate back to other "enterprise" oriented gratis distributions.

Stop honoring SUSE by mentioning it.

SuSE is such crap, lets not even honor it with a comparison.

I'm not a Centos fanboy per se, but every foray I've had with SuSE is slowness and rustration. Centos for the most part 'just works', (Xen issues aside), but SuSE, I dont even want to get into the various kinds of crap I encountered using that thing.

I can tame SuSE, but I hate using it.

Agreed with Dag

We are a very big SLES user at work, but all my home machines are done on CentOS.. because i Cant get a free openSLE to play with.
Sure I can use some work SLES licences, but why? when i can just download CentOS.

In another workplace, we run many many Centos systems. When we need to run mission critical systems, we move it over to RHEL, not because its better (its not, they are pretty even) but because the system is known to work fine on Centos/RHEL.

If SLES had the Centos equiavalent, im sure it would have most transitions similar to above.

Novell publish their sources PERIOD!

Quote:
"For SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 GA (General Availability–the initial version) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 Service Pack 2, the sources are also bundled with the binaries in each product build and are only available on the DVD ISOs, not the CD ISOs"
http://www.novell.com/linux/source/

Thanks!

The full source is available for free at the link provided by Azazzello. You need to register but not be a customer. You also need to agree to some objectionable conditions, but at least you can now access SLES source.

Thank you for the tip Azazzello.

SLES updates source RPMs are not available

As already discussed in comments, if you want to create a CentOS-alike distribution based on SLES you also need the update SRPMS, otherwise you cannot offer security-fixes, bugfixes or feature enhancements.

Not quite the case - clones do exist!

There are a number of "SLES clones", however none that compete (like CentOS) with SLES directly. Take SGI's Altix - it is a clone with the SGI spin and is used exclusively for SGI hardware. They do not compete with Novell directly, but SGI enhanced their SLES clone to make it better on SGI's hardware.

There are several others and these clones are for fixed function or highly specialized environments (IBM Blue Gene). That is why you never hear about them. You see, RedHat cannot claim this because their distribution is to generic to allow for such high end purposes.

Novell's business model allows for companies to make money and not compete directly with SLE for support dollars (most actually take advantage of Novell's superior support).

SLED SP2 srpms

Seems like a lot of misinformation on this thread: "You cannot access SLES updates without a subscription despite the opinions of some here"

SLES SP2 srpms:
ftp://forgeftp.novell.com/sledsource/SLED-10-SP2-i386-srpms/src/

Andrew Prough

This is the yearly service

This is the yearly service pack. Not the ongoing stream of security updates.

To clone an Enterprise product into a new Enterprise product, the security updates are essential.

Taking It One Step Further

Coming very late to the game, I have truly enjoyed the debate here. Thank, you Dag, for addressing this issue (not to mention a thousand other thanks I owe you as a long time user of your packages). I'm running CentOS for the reasons outlined -- five+ years of support for the same product. Further, if there was a SLED version of the same, I would probably switch in a heartbeat. The sticking point remains the steady stream of security update and bug fix SRPMs from Novell. Annual service packs won't do it. I'd build them myself without a supporting distro organization. Were they available, not only would I be running that cloned SLED right now, I'd be offering it to all my clients as their best alternative to that monopoly OS. Less than a five-year cycle makes it a hobby OS.

I'm trying to publicize the push for a specifically desktop version of what CentOS does for servers, with more of the desktop stuff which tends to show up in SUSE. As it is, I have to add a lot of stuff to CentOS, but it's worth it for the support of the underlying system, with timely security and bug fix updates.

openSLE

There is now an open request to create something like openSLE:

https://features.opensuse.org/306982

If you are interested please add your comments / insights and also vote for it so it gets the propper attention.

Just please refrain from spamming it wit unrelated or "OMG M$ Linux is teh suckz cause they made a deal with teh devil M$".

Thanks a lot (also for the post & the comments - there was some nice stuff in it) :)

I think some are missing the point

I would really like there to be an OpenSLES. Not OpenSUSE, necessarily.

I see OpenSUSE similarly to Fedora. Something related to RHEL, but not related enough that if I develop something on it I'm sure that it'll plug right into RHEL with no issues (version lag being the big issue. May not have the same tools (version lag again), and the same update process.

The reason I'm even here is I *may* being using for SLES in the near future. I was hoping to find the equivalent of CentOS (NOT Fedora) for SLES so I could throw it on a VM and kick the tires. Make sure I can integrate it with our current network services easily (LDAP, Kerberos, etc.), test updates, work out the kinks before I have a requirement. I suppose I could get a 60-day trial, but I like being able to take the long view and see how things hold up after SPs, many patches, etc.

revisited

In comparison, Red Hat actively worked on making sure that projects based on RHEL know exactly what to remove/change and made it easy to replace those parts that contain the Red Hat trademark.

Red Hat has changed the way it distributes Enterprise Linux kernel code in an effort to prevent Oracle and Novell from stealing its customers, making it more difficult for these competitors to understand which patches have been applied where. In essence, Red Hat is trying to hide information from these competitors that is essential to providing support for RHEL specifically.

these two actually match - redhat strictly sees selling support as it's business, so cloning RHEL is no seen a threat to them, but supporting RHEL *is seen as a threat*.

Well. Maybe RedHat support should simply get better? ;)