Monday, December 16, 2013

openSUSE 2016: taking a picture of openSUSE today

As some of you know, the openSUSE Team at SUSE is publishing a series of proposals to the openSUSE community in several key areas of the project. The first of those mails tried to provide a general picture of the project based, among other sources, on the data mining done during these past few months. 

Many of you do not follow the project closely or you do but are not subscribed to openSUSE mailing lists. I would like you to read the below article/mail and share your thoughts.

I believe that sharing a common understanding of the current strengths and weaknesses of the openSUSE project is helpful in order to agree on the steps to be taken in the near future and evaluating them. But above all, agreeing in an initial picture, even if not in the details, is relevant to have a chance to agree in the direction the project might take in the future.

Before reading the text of that first mail, posted below, there are three remarks to be made:
  1. I think some people from the openSUSE community has perceived this first mail as a negative criticism to the project and their contributors. Cold analysis based on numbers do not provide a complete picture of the project... but provides a good one, in my opinion. I wrote the below mail/article thinking about a better future, not to revisit a past I am part of. 
  2. A summary of the proposals was published in an openSUSE Team blog post. Please read it to get in context. As stated in that article, this first mail/article has as goal to share the motivations behind the later published proposals, trying to open a discussion about our current state that can lead us to agree on a picture we can use as starting point.
  3. At the end of the article/mail, I proposed some questions. If you are interested in answering them (I would appreciate it), please:
Otherwise, in order to keep the debate centralized (for record purposes also), I will post/summarize your answers and comments also in that mailing list.

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openSUSE 2016: taking a picture of openSUSE today


Once openSUSE 13.1 has been released, it is time for the openSUSE Team to focus on the future. We want to share some ideas we have about the project in general and factory in particular. The topic is not easy. so this mail is a little long and dense, but hopefully worth it. It won't be the last one so let me know how to improve it.

INTRODUCTION/GOALS
This is the first of a series of mails we will publish the following days with different ideas. The process we are proposing has no intention of pointing at anybody, revisiting the past or enforce any situation within the community. Our goals are:
  • Share a picture as a starting point of discussion.
  • Use the discussed picture as a reference to agree on actions we all can/want to execute. 

FIRST STEP: PIECES OF THE PUZZLE

One of the first things we did was digging into numbers that provided us information about the status of the project. Data cannot be the only source to create a complete picture, but it is helpful as first step.

In order to better understand the rest of the mail, you probably want to look the following references:
  • Alberto Planas talk at oSC13: openSUSE in Numbers[1]
  • Alberto Planas' slides from the above talk[2]
  • First openSUSE Team blog post: Numbers in openSUSE[3]
  • Second openSUSE Team blog post: More on statistics[4]
  • Jos post about numbers[5] 
One important note about the numbers: since most of the behaviors of the variables reflected on the graphs were consolidated, at some point we decided to stop adding effort in collecting numbers until 13.1 was released. Once the Release is well established, we will update them and evaluate the influence of this Release in the global picture.
 
I won't try to go very deep in the analysis. It would be too long. There are many interpretations that can be done based on the graphs. I will just point out the most relevant for our purpose. Feel free to add others.
 
Following Alberto Planas' order from his slides[2]...

1.- Downloads

The number of downloads do not measure our user base, but provide hints about the impact of the work done every 8 months, the potential new users we might bring to the project and, looking at pre-release downloads, the number of testers. 

Taking a look at the graphs, we can see that the overall number of downloads is growing at a slow path (slope). This behavior is not consistent in every release. For instance, 12.1 was more downloaded that 12.2 or 12.3. More and more people uses zypper for updating the distribution though.

2.- UUIDs (installations that update regularly)

  • Looking at the number of machines that regularly update against openSUSE repositories (daily, weekly and monthly), we can easily conclude that the situation is very stable. The speed of growth (daily and weekly stats) or decline (monthly) is low.
  • What the graph do not show is the acceleration. It has been negative (small in value) for quiet some time now.
  • When looking at the architectures, we see that x86_64 is more popular than i586. This behavior is accelerating, as confirmed in the download numbers collected for 12.3
  • When looking at the mediums where those installations come from, we clearly see three dominant ones: .iso (dvd version), ftp (net installs) and Live CD.
  • There is a relevant detail that Alberto mentioned in his talk. More than half, almost 2/3, of openSUSE installations are not using the last version many weeks after Release date. There is also a significant amount of installations using unmaintained or Evergreen versions.

3.- Factory and Tumbleweed installations/"users"

Factory is our ongoing development effort. As you can see in the graph, the number of Factory installations is constant. Tumbleweed was very successful when it came out. Many developers and bleeding edge users liked it. Its popularity is decreasing though.

4.- Contributors to factory and devel projects

The numbers of users that are submitting request to factory/devel projects is increasing. Now we have more non SUSE contributors. SUSE ones remain constant. The overall growth is about 27 new contributors per year, a little bit more than 2 new contributors per month.

5.- Social media and comparison with Fedora

openSUSE is, in the social media channels evaluated, in the range of Fedora. Comparing our numbers, I guess we all agree with this general trend that states that openSUSE is a more user oriented distribution than Fedora is. We have less downloads but more users (installations updating regularly).

SOLVING THE PUZZLE

All the above pieces shows a stable picture. Every sign of growth or decline is, in absolute and/or relative numbers, small except social media, due  to their explosion as communication channels (which I do not think is way different from what other Free Software communities are experiencing).

ADDING CONTEXT TO THE PICTURE

openSUSE coexist with other "coopetitors" (Free Software competitors+cooperators) and competitors (closed sources distributions). Touchscreens, cloud, big data, games...the Linux ecosystem is evolving and there are new users with new needs.

New players are consolidating their positions: Arch, Chakra, Mint... Ubuntu is moving to the mobile space, Debian is getting some attention back from previous Ubuntu users....

On the other hand, some distros that were relevant in the past have disappeared, our 13.1 has got more attention than previous ones, SUSE is healthy and willing to invest more in openSUSE in the future ...

In the above context, how is our "stable" situation perceived? How do we think it should be perceived?

INTERPRETING THE PICTURE

If we agree that the overall number of users of Linux based server + "traditional" desktop OS (let's remove the mobile/embedded space and cloud for now), is growing, not following the "market" growing trend might be perceived as a wake up call, a clear sign that improvements needs to be done.

But if we agree that we are playing in a risky and challenging field, stability can be perceived as a healthy sign.

After these months of analysis and discussions with both, contributors and users, I would like to ask you if you agree with the the idea that the first picture is more prominent than the second one. But, does the second one provide us a good platform to improve our current position?
 
SHARE YOUR OWN PICTURE

Let me propose you some questions:
  1. What other variables we should put in place to create an accurate picture of the current state of the project?
  2. What is the perception you think others have from the project?
  3. What is your perception, your picture?
To get some context you might want to take a look at the following contents:
  • Current strategy[6]
  • Ralf Flaxa keynote at oSC'13[7]
  • Jos article: Strategy and Stable[8]
  • Jos article: Strategy and Factory[9]
REFERENCES:

Please point us to other relevant references:

[1] Alberto Planas talk at oSC13: openSUSE in Numbers:
http://youtu.be/NwfohZ8RBd8
[2] Alberto Planas' slides from the above talk:
https://github.com/aplanas/opensuse-data/tree/master/osc13
[3] First openSUSE at SUSE team blog post: Numbers in openSUSE http://lizards.opensuse.org/2013/07/04/numbers-is-opensuse/
[4] Second openSUSE at SUSE team blog post: More on statistics http://lizards.opensuse.org/2013/08/23/more-on-statistics/
[5] Jos article about numbers:
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