since OpenSuse is THE system the matrix depends on cough … I´ve been thinking about keeping it. Maybe even forever (please don´t get sentimental here).
Upgrading distros from one version to another isn´t difficult at all, but certainly one should avoid major version jumps.
Let´s pretend one would update the system at least once a week and takes upgrades into account:
(1) How long would it be possible to keep the system?
(2) When would it be necessary to do a fresh install (if the system works just as it should)?
(3) If a re-install is necessary, how is it possible to tranfer the installed software packages (please keep in mind: not all packages have a repository)?
The issue isn’t sentiment but philosophy. The SUSE philosophy has always been one of regular upgrades/re-installs. If you want a system to keep for ever, you need Gentoo.
Depends on whether you are connected to the Internet. If you are: 18 months with openSUSE – five years with SUSE. If not: well I have a nine year old distro that I still use from time to time on one computer - but it isn’t connected to the Internet.
As with (1) depends on whether you are connected to the Internet and so need the security updates.
Using static packages and/or transferring the tar-balls and installing afresh each time. The problem will always be changes to dependencies that are the reason why distributors like SUSE have always gone for a policy of a fresh start every so often.