The openSUSE community has published the roadmap for the 11.2 release and unveiled the schedule for the next several releases, all the way out to 2011. The distro will be shifting towards a fixed time-based eight-month release cycle.
Ubuntu and Fedora have both converged on six-month release cycles that are loosely pinned to the GNOME development schedule. The openSUSE developers have rejected this approach and selected an eight-month cycle instead because they don't believe that six months provides an adequate time window for building a quality distribution.
The new schedule was proposed in a message posted to the openSUSE mailing list by release manager Stephan Kulow. In the e-mail, he lists the months when releases are expected to arrive and also provides some insight into the feature plan for 11.2, the next major release.
OpenSUSE 11.2, which is codenamed Fichte, is planned for November 2009. It will include GNOME 2.28, KDE 4.3, a Web-based management interface for the YaST configuration system, improved support for Netbook hardware, and could potentially use Ext4 as the default filesystem. Subsequent releases will take place in July 2010, March 2011, and November 2011. Previous releases have generally been made at intervals of roughly 8 to 10 months, but a fixed cycle has never previously been enforced.
A strong commitment to a predetermined consistent release schedule makes it much easier for third-party developers and end-users to properly plan for releases. It also diminishes the risk of never-ending Duke Nukem Forever development cycles. The downside is that the pressure to ship on time can degrade release quality and also cause a distro to miss critical versions of important software components that are released too late for inclusion. The key is to be able to work within a schedule but make allowances for deviations where it is necessary and warranted.
The new openSUSE release strategy appears more structured than the previous approach, but still not as uncompromising as Ubuntu's rigid schedule commitment.