A change of direction for OpenSUSE

This morning on the opensuse-factory mailing-list it was pointed out that the ongoing problems getting version 12.2 to a state where it can even be reliably tested was a symptom of structural problems within how OpenSUSE as a whole handles package development. Steven Kulow posted the following this morning:


It's time we realize delaying milestones is not a solution. Instead,
let's use the delay of 12.2 as a reason to challenge our current
development model and look at new ways. Rather than continue to delay
milestones, let's re-think how we work.

openSUSE has grown. We have many interdependent packages in Factory. The
problems are usually not in the packages touched, so the package updates
work. What's often missing though is the work to fix the other packages
that rely on the updated package. We need to do a better job making sure
bugs caused by updates of "random packages" generate a working system.
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. And IMO it's because we can't keep up in
the current model.

I don't remember a time during 12.2 development when we had less than
100 "red" packages in Factory. And 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).

So I would like to throw in some ideas to discuss (and you are welcome
to throw in yours as well - but please try to limit yourself to things
you have knowledge about - pretty please):

1. We need to have more people that do the integration work - this
  partly means fixing build failures and partly debugging and fixing
  bugs that have unknown origin.
  Those will get maintainer power of all of factory devel projects, so
  they can actually work on packages that current maintainers are unable
2. We should work way more in pure staging projects and less in develop
  projects. Having apache in Apache and apache modules in
  Apache:Modules and ruby and rubygems in different projects may have
  appeared like a clever plan when set up, but it's a nightmare when it
  comes to factory development - an apache or ruby update are a pure
  game of luck. The same of course applies to all libraries - they never
  can have all their dependencies in one project.
  But this needs some kind of tooling support - but I'm willing to
  invest there, so we can more easily pick "green stacks".
  My goal (a pretty radical change to now) is a no-tolerance
  strategy about packages breaking other packages.
3. 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 - as already discussed in the RC1

Let's discuss things very openly - I think we learned enough about where
the current model works and where it doesn't so we can develop a new one

Greetings, Stephan

The discussion is already going.

The current release-schedule is an 8 months schedule, which is in contrast to a certain other highly popular Linux distro that releases every 6. Before they went to the every-8 schedule, they had a "when it's good and ready" schedule. The "when it's good and ready" schedule lead to criticisms that OpenSUSE was an habitually stale distro that never had the latest shiny new toys that the other distros had; which, considering the then-increasing popularity of that certain other distro, was a real concern in the fight for relevancy.

Looks like the pain of a hard-ish deadline is now exceeding the pain of not having the new shiny as fast as that other distro.

One thing that does help, and Stephan pointed this out, is the advent of the Tumbleweed release of OpenSUSE. Tumbleweed is a continual integration release similar in style to Mint; unlike the regular release it does get regular updates to the newest-shiny, but only after it passes testing. Now that OpenSUSE has Tumbleweed, allowing the mainline release to revert to a "when it's good and ready" schedule is conceivable without threatening to throw the project out of relevance.

These are some major changes being suggested, and I'm sure that they'll keep the mailing-list busy for a couple of weeks. But in the end, it'll result in a more stable OpenSUSE release process.