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Novell Sets OpenSUSE 11.2 Free

After almost a year of development, Novell's openSUSE 11.2 Linux release is now available, providing the community Linux distribution with an updated key application as well as a new approach to the community itself.

The new openSUSE 11.2 release comes in the middle of a busy Linux distribution season, following Ubuntu's Karmic Koala and ahead of Red Hat's Fedora 12.

As opposed to both Fedora 12 and Ubuntu Karmic Koala, which both offer new virtualization capabilities, openSUSE 11.2 does not have a specific concentration on virtualization. Joe Brockmeier, openSUSE's community manager, told InternetNews.com that virtualization wasn't a focus for the 11.2 release, though there are updates for both the Xen and VirtualBox hypervisors included.

Among the new features in the openSUSE 11.2 release is the debut of a new Web-based front end for the distribution's setup tool, YaST (Yet another Setup Tool). The idea with the new WebYaST is to enable system administrators to manage their openSUSE machines over a Web interface.

But software updates aside, the real key to the new openSUSE release is about how the Novell-led community distribution itself comes together.

"This cycle for us has been a lot about increasing the independence of the project and being able to allow contributors to work directly with openSUSE, as opposed to going through people that work with Novell," Brockmeier told InternetNews.com.

Novell created the openSUSE project in 2005 as a way to build community. The idea was for the project to be a Novell-sponsored effort that is driven by its participants. With the openSUSE 11.1 release in December 2008, the project for the first time was built in the open, using Novell's OpenBuild service. The OpenBuild service is a technology that enables application packages to be built and maintained.

OpenBuild is also now the cornerstone of how the entire openSUSE distribution is built.

Brockmeier explained that since the 11.1 release, developers outside of Novell could contribute directly to the openSUSE project, since the project now has policies in place that lets contributions occur.

So instead of every package going through a Novell employee, there are now at least 30 people involved in contributing packages directly without Novell involvement. Brockmeier emphasized that the project still has a focus on quality control, but now, the person checking quality isn't necessarily employed by Novell.

Novell itself has also restructured how it allocates staff resources to the openSUSE project. In many respects, openSUSE serves as a testing ground for technologies that end up in Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise product line and as a result, resources have often been shared. Novell updated its SUSE Linux Enterprise with version 11 earlier this year.

"Now we have a specific dedicated team at Novell that just works on openSUSE," Brockmeier said. "We've had lots of people wear two hats at Novell supporting both openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise. Now we have a core group exclusively tasked with openSUSE and that's pretty good. So no matter where we are in SUSE Linux Enterprise cycle we have resources to carry on work for openSUSE."