OpenSUSE release put on ice as community booms

The OpenSUSE project has put the release schedule for the Linux distro on hold, saying it is being dogged by integration problems caused by the growth in its contributors and calling for a major shake-up in its approach

The release schedule for the openSUSE Linux distribution has been put on hold, due to problems integrating the masses of contributions from an ever-growing developer community.


The openSUSE project has put the release schedule for the Linux distro on hold. Image credit: JA Watson

Every milestone and beta release of the upcoming openSUSE 12.2 version has been delayed or scrapped, as with the recent freeze on Release Candidate 1. Following a plea for reorganisation by openSUSE release manager Stephan Kulow, also known as Coolo, the project said on Thursday that openSUSE needs "new ideas" to get back on track.

OpenSUSE 12.2 was, until Thursday, slated to appear on 11 July.

"The mail by Coolo serves as a wake-up call for openSUSE," community manager Jos Poortvliet wrote in a blog post. "Right now, we work via the devel projects which collaboratively send in better packages to Factory [the current state-of-play version]. But even then, sometimes things break in major ways and this breakage has gotten more frequent over time due to the growth of our community."

Poortvliet laid out a few suggestions, all of which he said came with "pros and cons": 

  • Concentrate more on 'staging projects', which would allow deeper testing and integration before feeding into Factory.
  • Move to producing one stable release a year, rather than one every eight months as is now the case. This would be accompanied by rolling updates for "bleeding edge fans", via the Tumbleweed portal and openSUSE Build Service (OBS) repositories.
  • Drop the release schedule altogether, simply putting out each new version when it is ready.

"We want to avoid losing ourselves: introducing rules and procedures to solve problems isn't our way. So we need fresh ideas and look in other directions. And now is the time to discuss these things: we're bumping into the limits of how we work so the sense of urgency is there," he said.

According to Poortvliet, the number of developers working on the project make it tricky to clear the backlog when the Buildservice goes down. The stability of Factory is "not exactly up to our usual standards", and there are also some feature integration problems, he added.

Kulow's appeal

Kulow's message earlier in the day explained the integration problems, noting that packages are not being sufficiently updated in cases where they depend on other packages that have been updated.

"Very fortunately, we have an increasing number of contributors that update versions or fix bugs in packages, but lately, the end result has been getting worse, not better," Kulow wrote. "We have packages that fail for almost five months without anyone picking up a fix. Or packages that have unsubmitted changes in their devel project for six months without anyone caring to submit it (even ignoring newly introduced reminder mails)."

Kulow pushed for having more staging projects and introducing a "no-tolerance strategy about packages breaking other packages". He also called for more openSUSE contributors to get involved with integration work.

"As working more strictly will require more time, I would like to either ditch release schedules all together or release only once a year and then rebase Tumbleweed," he added.

Both Kulow and Poortvliet called for an open discussion on the matter within the community, and Poortvliet warned that "we won't have a decision any time soon".

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