If you’ve been wanting to give openSUSE a try as a server platform but didn’t want to bother with a GUI, you might assume you’re out of luck since it’s primarily a desktop distribution. So why would you want to use a headless openSUSE installation as a server platform?

For one thing, it defaults to the btrfs file system, so rolling back changes is incredibly easy. Also, this could be a great testing ground to see if you’re ready to finally migrate to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). See how easy it is to install openSUSE as a headless server.

Get your ISO

The first thing you must do is download the openSUSE ISO. I’ll demonstrate on openSUSE Leap (the regular openSUSE release). Although Tumbleweed is a great rolling release distribution, I highly recommend Leap for this purpose, as you’ll get a more stable environment for a server. Once you have your ISO image downloaded, burn it onto a disk or create a bootable USB drive with the image.

Either route you take, insert the media and boot your server.

SEE: Side-by-side: openSuSE Tumbleweed and Leap (ZDNet)

Desktop selection

When you get to the desktop selection of the installation process, click Other to reveal the Minimal Server Selection (Text Mode). Click that option (Figure A) and then click Next.

Figure A

To get to the headless option, you must first click Other.

Go through the process of creating your user as you normally would and click Next. After you’ve set up your user, the Installation Settings review window will appear (Figure B).

Figure B

The install review screen.

In this screen (Figure B) notice the Firewall and SSH systems are set to disable. You must enable both of these before clicking the Install button. To do this, click the Firewall and SSH link and then enable all three options when prompted (Figure C) and click OK. If you do not enable these options, you won’t be able to gain access to this machine from anywhere but locally. Since the purpose of a headless machine is remote access, this is a must. You’ll need the firewall enabled for security.

Figure C

Enabling the Firewall, SSH, and opening the SSH port.

Back in the Installation Settings window, click Install and then click another Install button when prompted to verify. Allow the installation to complete.

You’re ready to log into your openSUSE headless server. You can boot it up and log into a bash prompt locally or secure shell to it from a remote location. You can start adding server software to your openSUSE server.

Server is just a few steps away

Yes, you just installed a headless desktop system, but anyone who’s worked with Linux enough knows that a desktop can be quickly transformed into a server by installing a few packages. Next time we visit openSUSE, we’ll do just that, and your headless machine will be a desktop no more.