SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop: Better Than Red Hat?

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Recently, I took a closer look at Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or “RHEL”, to see how good of an enterprise desktop operating system it really is. I found that it’s a top quality product, and Fedora users would be extremely familiar with it (no surprise there). However, Red Hat isn’t the only company in the Linux enterprise desktop market — there’s also SUSE.

While aiming towards the same goals, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, or “SLED” which costs $120 for a one-year subscription, and offers different technologies and software to get the job done. But just what can SLED offer, and how is it different to Red Hat’s offering?

Getting the Evaluation Copy and Installation


From the start, getting an evaluation copy of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop was easier because, unlike Red Hat, you don’t need to be associated with a business or enterprise to be eligible. In fact, all you need to do is visit this site and request an evaluation copy. You’ll then be asked to create an account so that the evaluation code can be associated with something. Once this has been done, you can go ahead and download your SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop installation media. The evaluation copy of SLED lasts for a total of 60 days rather than just 30 days with Red Hat.


The installation and registration of the software was also easy — the installer did almost everything for me (any openSUSE user will be very familiar with the installer), and the registration works flawlessly after entering in both your email address and your subscription code.

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Surprisingly, SUSE still considers GNOME to be its default desktop environment for its enterprise offerings, despite the fact that openSUSE (from which SLED is derived) is more known for its slick KDE polish and integration. No matter, SLED’s GNOME implementation is also pretty nice, as it’s adjusted to reflect a Windows-like setup where there is only one panel and an application launcher at the bottom right corner.

The latest release of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop version 11 SP3, actually includes some decently updated software. Some examples include Linux kernel 3.0.82, Firefox 17 (the latest long term support release), LibreOffice 4, and GNOME 2.28.2. While they’re certainly not the latest and greatest releases, they’re certainly more up-to-date than Red Hat while still being considered reasonably stable for enterprise environments.


Generally speaking, everything that you may find in openSUSE will be highly recognizable in SLED. The major difference between the two is that the software is more stable and the support timeframes are much longer for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop than they are for openSUSE. In fact, the software available under SLED isn’t nearly as restricted as it is under Red Hat Enterprise Linux. For example, you are still able to see the Games, Education, and Multimedia software categories in the software manager. While I’m not sure if this really makes a difference in the long run for enterprise environments, I definitely like to see more choices available.

Additionally, with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, you get professional support from the company who makes the operating system.


There are a handful of differences between Red Hat and SUSE. For example, Red Hat focuses primarily on GNOME while SUSE offers both GNOME and KDE (but has GNOME as its default). Red Hat also uses completely different tools for system management like yum for package installation, GNOME system settings, and kickstart for automated installations. SUSE, on the other hand, uses YaST as a complete control center for every system setting or task, and AutoYaST for automated installations.


I certainly like SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. In fact, I like it a lot, and I’m sure I’d like it even more if I chose to install the KDE desktop rather than stick with the defaults. However, whether I like it more than Red Hat — I’m not sure. I do enjoy the larger software selection and more up-to-date software, but I also like Red Hat’s stability and configuration tools.

I’m sure plenty of people like SUSE’s YaST to configure their entire system from one location, but I find myself constantly struggling to fully understand what everything does or means. As someone who’s running the latest version of Fedora with KDE, I really can’t help but feel like I’m stuck in the middle. SUSE certainly tries to entice you, so if you’re fine with using YaST, then SUSE may be slightly better.

Unless you have specific reasons to like one or the other, I’d just suggest to go with the vendor that’s geographically closer to you (where Red Hat is in the United States and SUSE is headquartered in Germany). This way, you’ll be dealing with a more local provider who can better serve you in terms of support.

Which enterprise desktop solution do you think is better, RHEL or SLED? What about their open counterparts, Fedora and openSUSE? Let us know in the comments below!

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Comments (11)
  • Gerard

    I have worked for a Novell house for a couple of years and then a Redhat (CentOS one).

    I can say that both distributions were excellent. Like the readers above I also like Debian and frankly can’t stand Ubuntu. I was able to get my last job off it before it started to creep in like a cancer. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t change IPs from the command line and needed to go through the GUI for instance. Left that place with a nice homogenous Redhat clone setup.

    My problem with SuSe is that while their products are great, atleast in Australia there seems to be no market need for SuSe. I went through the entire SuSe certification set CLA, CLP, CLE and people I’m interviewed by all say “Why so much SuSe?”, “Didn’t know SuSe had a certification track”…. Let me tell you they do and it isn’t easy. So unless I was going to work in a SuSe house most people don’t give my certifications the credit they deserve.

    Anyways I got 100% in the RHCSA 6 and sitting my RHCE 6 in a week. Both distributions are comparable both in terms of excellence and in terms of exam difficulty. Mind you haven’t sat the RHCE exam as yet. But so far its been about the same.

    The only thing id say about YaST is while an excellent tool its make you lazy. You never do anything through the command line and thus when in another distro – your left scratching your head for a while configuring the demon. system-config tools are the same. Id say ditch both if you can and learn demon configs all the time – then your skills are more transferable. SuSe is a bit more YaST centric then RHEL is system-config centric though. It can obliterate a very custom config – killed my ldap sssd config once on open suse.

  • David Byte

    On the support comment at the end of the article. While the world HQ for SUSE is in Germany, a sizable support presence is in effect around the world and there are a significant number of SUSE employees stateside, including myself. Our largest US location in still in Provo, UT where our award winning service ( for the Americas is based.

  • Brandon R

    To me it seems that Suse and Red Hat Linux are the two most popular Linux OSs used in companies but yet Ubuntu is the most popular OS installed on someone’s desktop or laptop at home who is a geek so why is it companies dont use Ubuntu server as much as Red Hat or Suse is it because Ubuntu Server is less secure and stable somehow ?

    • dragonmouth

      Ubuntu is not geeky. It is for wannabes. You want geeky Linux, you go for Arch, Gentoo, Slackware or even Debian. Ubuntu is popular on the desktop because it is the closest in look and feel to Windows.

      Corporations use Red Hat Enterprise and Suse Enterprise because those two distros are completely configurable and adaptable by the user. Ubuntu Server is not. Canonical does a lot of the configuration. In comparison to SLED and RHEL, Ubuntu Server is the new kid on the block. SLED and RHEL have a proven track record, Ubuntu Server does not.

    • TechnoAngina

      Ubuntu is for converts who are looking for a less steep learning curve than jumping headlong into Slack, Arch or Mageia. Calling people wannabes is insulting, and since we’re aiming for more inclusiveness(Linus outbursts aside) it tends to be a bit more of a friendly way to grow your group. People generally tend to choose Ubuntu because it is easier and offers less options to confuse people and a lot more visual tools. Most power users quickly move off of Ubuntu, though I’ve found for my media share/Handbrake station my Mint box was quicker to set up and more stable than my Arch set up, though this was found to be caused by a faulty memory stick, which Linux Mint was able to overcome and Arch was not during the install phase, so Mint stayed on.

      All that said you’re dead on with the Ubuntu server. It wastes a lot of resources needlessly and for the corporate environment I’d take SLED or RHEL any day over Ubuntu anything.

  • 67GTA

    I was surprised last year when I noticed my local crop service (Southern States) was running SLED on their office PC’s in Kentucky. I tried to make small talk about it with the cashier, but she didn’t know what I was talking about.

    • Danny Stieben

      That’s pretty neat! I definitely would have expected Red Hat, if not Windows.

  • Shane

    I use opensuse. Have for many years. First package 5.2 . Started using 10 in companies. Have tried many other distros, but just find Yast in opensuse a lot polished. I’m using from 12.1 and 12.3 in large companies now.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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