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SUSE Linux 9.2: Let the Branding Begin!

Differentiating Novell and SUSE

December 16, 2004

Ever since Novell acquired SUSE, the Linux community has been wondering when and how SUSE Linux would change. Novell's release of the Novell Linux Desktop (NLD) struck fear and confusion into many long-time SUSE users and Novell watchers.

The big red 'N' and Novell red are pervasive in NLD, but NLD is really orthogonal to Novell's SUSE Linux 9.2. Unfortunately, Novell hasn't done a very good job of explaining its Linux strategy except to say "we like it" and "Linux is the foundation for our future."

With the release of SUSE 9.2 and various statements about the new NetWare, things seem to become more clear. What we now know as SUSE Linux will continue, though it will be increasingly branded as a Novell product. You can see that in the installer splash screen that accompanies SUSE 9.2 (see Figure 1), where SUSE is clearly "A Novell Business."

While NLD is a descendant of SUSE Enterprise Linux and targeted towards the business desktop market, what we have always known as SUSE Linux should continue to thrive, perhaps with increasing query-replacement of SUSE with Novell and an increasing focus on English rather than German. For traditionalists, SUSE still provides LIESMICH files as an alternative to the more common READMEs.

As an aside, I'm intrigued and excited by upcoming releases of NetWare, which are reputed to live atop either a traditional NetWare or shiny new Linux kernel. As a long-time NetWare fan and admin, this is great news because NetWare and Linux integration has always been somewhat of a black art. The Linux ncpfs tools are powerful but obscure, accessing NetWare through Samba is somewhat cheesy, the Novell Directory Services have never really penetrated the Linux market (though eDirectory shows promise), and a quickly euthanized integration product from Caldera (long ago) didn't help things any. But I digress.

SUSE Linux has a long tradition of being the most frequently released Linux distribution, and Novell is staying true to that heritage. SUSE 9.2 follows SUSE 9.1 by a few months, and many people haven't even unpacked SUSE 9.0 yet. To thrive in a market where community distributions such as Fedora and Gentoo are constantly being updated and improved, commercial Linux distributions have to offer the same level of constant improvement to their customers. Not only is it critical to continue to push the latest versions of the 2.6 Linux kernel, but hardware evolution such as the increasing penetration of 64-bit systems make "release early, release often" a good commercial Linux mantra, as long as it's backed up by excellent product support. Novell may have acquired SUSE, but SUSE acquired Novell's top-notch product support group, staffed by people with impressive technical and product knowledge. A pleasant time is guaranteed for all...