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SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Desktop ship with a limited set of software packages. These packages are supported under the SUSE Linux Enterprise technical support offerings provided to customers. On the other hand, thousands of additional packages are maintained by volunteers in the openSUSE Build Service for use with openSUSE and other distributions. Many of the packages are maintained for use with SUSE Linux Enterprise products as well.

Packages maintained for SUSE Linux Enterprise exist in many different individual projects - in particular the "devel" projects. Many of these packages would be useful for SUSE Linux Enterprise customers but some of them could interfere with functionality and supportability of the SUSE product if installed. The risk of breaking supportability makes it difficult for SUSE to recommend these community maintained packages to end customers. At the same time, SUSE encourages community efforts and wants to promote the community based packages to all users.

The idea of the Backports project is to collect openSUSE packages built for SUSE Linux Enterprise in a central repository. The policies for this repo are aligned with SUSE in order to maintain supportability of the main OS, making the packages "safe" to install and use.

At the moment the Backports project targets SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 GA (SLE-12). A SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 target might be considered if there is popular demand