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Should I choose Novell Linux Desktop or SUSE LINUX Professional as my desktop?
By Joe Harmon


Since Novell Linux Desktop came out, many people within the community and the enterprise have wondered whether they should be using Novell Linux Desktop or SUSE LINUX Professional. This document will assist you in understanding the market need for both desktops.


Let's start out by understanding each desktop. Just for the ease of explanation, we will split these into Enthusiast and Enterprise desktops. The reason for this split should become clear as you read this article.

SUSE LINUX Professional (Enthusiast)

The Enthusiast market is all about self and community reliance, bleeding edge technology, and the old saying of "everything and the kitchen sink." This requirement changes how a product is to be developed and maintained.

So what is SUSE LINUX Professional?

SUSE LINUX Professional is...

  • made up of all the latest desktop AND server packages, integrated on a stable operating system - A new edition of SUSE LINUX Professional is brought to market approximately every six months. This allows more extensive testing and refinement before going into an Enterprise, desktop and server products.

  • a community release of the latest open source packages and technology previews in a complete, convenient, easily installed edition - SUSE LINUX Professional is often the first to come out with the latest technology built into its installation. This allows many people to preview and use the latest technology without having to build it into their own OS.

  • developed especially for first time Linux users and technical enthusiasts ; available only in retail shops or via a free download - This is a great way for individual users to get to know a Linux desktop and what it can do.

  • shipped with over 1,000 of the latest open source applications - provides an excellent first look at technologies which, when refined and fully supported, may appear in future enterprise Linux offerings from Novell. Some examples of new technologies that came with SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3 are:

    • XEN (virtualization)

    • OpenOffice 2.0 (productivity suite)

    • Beagle (desktop search)

    • Mono (open source development environment) which, when refined and fully supported, may appear in Novell's future enterprise Linux offerings.

  • NOT part of Novell enterprise price list or support programs - For a better understanding, see the section below that describes development of the product.

  • NOT sold through Novell direct or indirect channels

Novell Linux Desktop (Enterprise)

The Enterprise is all about stability, supportability, maintenance, and security. Here the market requires being able to support and sustain a healthy business. Again, this requirement changes how a product is to be developed and maintained.

So what is Novell Linux Desktop?

Novell Linux Desktop powered by SUSE LINUX is...

  • a desktop operating system and office applications to support a productive workforce - Novell Linux Desktop is specifically designed with the workforce in mind. Loaded with applications such as OpenOffice, Evolution/Kmail, Firefox, iFolder, etc., which allow a typical workforce user to perform their job over a Linux desktop. When compared to SUSE LINUX Professional, applications delivered with Novell Linux Desktop will be more rigorously tested versions so that they can be completely supported throughout the 18-24 month lifetime of Novell Linux Desktop.

  • built upon SUSE LINUX, providing security to protect data and reliability to keep personnel productive - Novell Linux Desktop is based on the SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server kernel, which puts it in within the enterprise family along with SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server (SLES) and Open Enterprise Server. The security and reliability in the enterprise products are amazing. This includes ISV and hardware certifications. See the comparison chart for more information.

  • backed by Novell so businesses can deploy it with confidence - This includes support, maintenance, and many other options during the life of the product.

  • THE enterprise or business desktop offering from Novell - Ideal for mass deployments within the enterprise to compliment the other enterprise offerings from Novell.

  • ideal for specific segments of desktop users including fixed-function desktops and workstations, deskless PC users, structured task workers and transactional workers

Compare the Enthusiast and Enterprise Offerings

Now that we have given a brief overview of each desktop, take a look at the following table which will help you understand the specific technical offering of the Enterprise and Enthusiast builds.




SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9

SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3

Novell Linux Desktop 9

Target Segments

IT buyers looking for a hardened, supported Linux platform backed by a reliable product release cycle

Linux users and technical enthusiasts, experienced computer users, community developers

Distribution Channels

Direct, channel, OEM


Release Strategy

18-24 months

Six months

Technical support

Comprehensive support options, available in flexible configurations

60-day install only

Enterprise Testing



Security Patches


Limited availability

Software and Driver Updates



Update Protection



Service Pack Availability



ISV Certifications



Hardware Certifications




Yes (SLES 9 only)


Lifecycle Guarantee

Yes (5 years)


Printed Manuals









Why The Need for Two Desktops

We started out this whole discussion by showing that there was a market need for the latest and greatest technology, and in order to stay on top of the latest technology the product development cycle must be shorter than that of an enterprise product. Otherwise by the time a new product was created the technology would already be old. This also allows us to see which applications are embraced by the community and are suitable for the enterprise. Therefore the Enthusiast development cycle is around six months with no life cycle guarantee.

We also showed that there was a need for stability and maintainability in a product. Once a new technology is enterprise ready, there is a need to support and maintain that product though extensive enterprise testing, security patches, software and driver updates, hardware and ISV certifications, service packs, etc. Therefore the Enterprise development cycle is around 18 - 24 months with a guaranteed life cycle of five years.

How It All Fits Together

Let's take the reasoning for needing two desktops and plot them out using Novell's build system (Autobuild). Here you can see that the enthusiast build comes out about every six months. Shortly after, the enterprise products follow. This becomes even more solidified around the code 10 time frame with SUSE LINUX Professional 10.0 releasing first with new builds around every six months and then Novell Linux Desktop 10 and SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 10 releasing shortly after with updates and service packs to follow the release of the product.

To help you better understand this Autobuild process see the diagram below. This shows how Novell interacts with the open source community in order to produce enterprise-ready Linux distributions. While this diagram is greatly simplified, it is a useful illustration of the robust processes Novell follows.

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