Fedora 25 vs. openSUSE 42.2 Leap: which is the right distro for you?

That’s like asking me who is my favorite child.

suse fedora
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

Fedora and openSUSE are the two leading Linux-based distributions. While Fedora is upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the king of datacenters, openSUSE enjoys almost similar, but a bit complicated relationship with SUSE Linux Enterprise.

Both projects announced the latest version of their distributions recently; openSUSE 42.2 Leap and Fedora 25. I have been using both on my Dell XPS 13 as well as inside a virtual machine and I am really impressed with both.

These are developer platforms

By now I have come to realize that Linux on desktop is a developer platform and not a consumer platform. Both openSUSE and Fedora are top distributions when it comes to dev machines. Linus Torvalds uses Fedora and he had a small stint with openSUSE too.

However it’s not the pre-installed set of developer tools that make these distros dev machines, it’s how they work. To the credit of Fedora it comes with the latest packages and it’s repositories always have the latest libraries. That’s one of the reasons why Torvalds told me he uses Fedora.

OpenSUSE Leap, is a bit more conservative than Fedora when it comes to the latest packages and is always a few versions behind Fedora, but it gives you access to same tools that Fedora offers. At the same time openSUSE also gives access to OBS (Open Build Service) that allows developers to package their apps for any Linux based distribution. openSUSE also has YaST that’s more or less like the command center for the entire distribution.

Last year openSUSE moved the base of openSUSE to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) SP1, which brings these two cousins together. There is an interesting chemistry between the commercial SLES and openSUSE. Both are in a way upstream for each other. It’s more or less like colliding galaxies exchanging matter!

As a result of this new equation, openSUSE users now have enterprise grade distributions that they can use to develop apps and services to run on their SLES powered servers.

Great DevOps platforms

Fedora 25: Both Fedora 25 and openSUSE 42.2 Leap are excellent platforms for DevOps. Fedora 25 and openSUSE 42.2 Leap comes with Docker 1.12 for building and running containerized applications. This is the latest release of Docker that builds upon Dockers recent adoption of runC and containers to bring the latest orchestration features, such as Docker Swarm.

Fedora 25 comes with Node.js 6.9.1, which is the latest version of the open source server-side JavaScript engine. Fedora 25 also supports Rust, the open source programming language that originated from Mozilla.

Great distributions for enterprise developers

Although Fedora is the base of RHEL and CentOS, which rule the enterprise world, Fedora itself is not recommended for such a set-up due to it’s cutting edge technologies and shorter life cycle. openSUSE, on the other hand has a complex relationship with SLE, because it’s based on SLE. openSUSE 42.2 benefits from the shared code and latest enterprise technologies like NVDIMM, OmniPATH, Data Plane Development Kit with openVSwitch are back ported from SLE 12 SP2 to 42.2 release.

In a blog post, Douglas Demaio of openSUSE release team wrote, “Along with the shared SLE codebase, openSUSE Leap 42.2 gets packages, maintenance and bug fixes from the openSUSE community and SUSE engineers.”

Can be used as consumer desktop

Although I discount Linux desktop as a consumer operating system (Chrome OS is the potential candidate of consumer grade Linux desktop), both Fedora and openSUSE come with applications that allow users to use it as a workstation. You get LibreOffice for word processing, GIMP for image editing, VLC for video playback, Rhythmbox for music, Fedora or Chrome for web browsing....and there are thousands of applications that you can install through community repositories. Which means you can also use either of the distributions as a desktop OS, just don’t expect the same experience that you will get on Chrome OS, macOS or Windows.

What kind of support is there for third party apps?

Both Fedora 25 and openSUSE 42.2 don’t include many apps and codecs in their official repository due to licensing and patent issues. But there are community maintained repositories that you can use to install many such applications and codecs.

If you are on Fedora you can install free and non-free repositories from RPMFusion, which will give you access to all those packages that can’t be included in the main repository. On openSUSE side, you can install Packman Repository to install such packages.

On openSUSE, you can also install packages from the online portal software.opensuse.org; just be extra careful about not mixing repositories.

Which one to choose?

Both Fedora 25 and openSUSE Leap are the cream of Linux distributions and you can use both on the same system using dual booting method. Not everyone is as enthusiastic about Linux on desktop as I am. If you asked me which one I would choose, it would be difficult for me to answer, however here are a few points that may help you make the decision.

The good news is that both are .rpm based distributions so the same .rpm binary for 3rd party applications like Google Chrome and Plex Media Server can be installed on either of the two distributions.

While Fedora 25 is supported for 13 months, the 42 series of Leap is expected to be supported for at least 36 months, until the next major version of Leap is released. If you are looking for a distribution that’s supported for longer, openSUSE Leap offers a longer life expectancy. On a side note, openSUSE also has a tested and stable rolling release version called Tumbleweed that’s maintained forever as it stays updated all the time.

Both Fedora and openSUSE have great support for 3rd party software, openSUSE also has an online portal where you can search for applications that are not available through official or community repository; Fedora seems to lacks such an online portal.

On the plus side, Fedora 25 has out of the box support for my Brother printer whereas with openSUSE, I had to install it manually.

Compared to Fedora, openSUSE takes a very rigid approach towards security and enables Firewalls by default blocking many ports that you may use for applications like Plex Media Server and you have to manually open such ports. openSUSE also doesn’t do a very good job at simplifying things when installing new packages or upgrading; YaST Software Manager will throw package conflict notifications without really helping users much, I have not yet come across such issues with Fedora; you can either install a package or not (if dependencies are not satisfied).

These are a few points that you may consider before choosing one of the two distros. I have been an openSUSE user since 2011 and I am quite happy with it so far.

Which one are you planning to install, Fedora 25 or openSUSE 42.2?

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