German software companies often start their names with the letter S (SAP, Software AG and a few others) and so SUSE is no exception.
SUSE is a provider of enterprise-grade Linux, it also specializes in an accompanying arsenal of open source software-defined infrastructure technologies and a set of application delivery tools. Sometimes written as SuSE, the company’s name (pronounced sue-suh) derives from the original German-language Software-und System-Entwicklung (Software and Systems Development).
In a world where even Microsoft now loves Linux and the proliferation of enterprise-level open source continues to gain traction every year, SUSE’s recent moves see it now establish itself as a fully independent private firm. In March 2019 SUSE was acquired by Scandinavian equity funds investment organization EQT — previously SUSE was owned by Micro Focus.
Open source ambitions
SUSE CEO Nils Brauckmann insists that his firm is going to push enterprise open source forward with new vigor and potency.
“We are about to become the largest independent open source company in this industry… as the Red [Hat] gets sucked into the [Big] Blue of the IBM brand,” said SUSE CEO Nils Brauckmann, making reference to the fact that IBM recently bought open source enterprise Linux company Red Hat. “The team has an enormous hunger to operate this business and it will be good for the [software and technology] market in its entirety,” he added.
Brauckmann’s assertive claim may need contextualization. Industry analysts and technology commentators have suggested that open source data engineering firm Cloudera may have more revenue than SUSE at the moment. The difference may be that SUSE has more ‘fully open’ open source products than Cloudera — and it is that open openness that SUSE thinks could be a differentiator for its technology proposition going forward.
“With this growth investor now behind us [EQT] we will now be able to pursue organic growth [i.e. internal development] alongside non-organic [i.e. acquisitions] in a new build & buy approach that allows us to extend our technology platform further,” said SUSE CEO Brauckmann. “And… going forward, we are – generally speaking – pursuing our independence with a combination of continuity and refinement.”
A policy of continuity & refinement
For continuity, Brauckmann means community events and open collaboration initiatives that already exist… and also continuity in terms of the firm’s already established leadership team.
For refinement, Brauckmann means the effort to augment and extend the SUSE technology platform in line with developments happening throughout the wider IT landscape. So that means everything from new Internet of Things (IoT) developments, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation… and then onward onto new approaches to the way software applications are being delivered in what is being called multi-modal cloud environments.
What is a multi-modal cloud?
The coining of this new technology phrase multimodal IT has come about as a result of all the new approaches to online web-based cloud-centric computing that we’re seeing played out across the tech industry every day. Multi-modal cloud refers to the cloud computing built on a combination of different operating systems, underpinned by a mix of software platforms based upon multiple different infrastructure types, running a combination of different applications all tasked with processing a variety of data workloads and all being accessed by an selection of different devices for what are often very different use cases.
SUSE says that making multimodal work often means integrating cloud-based platforms into enterprise systems, or merging containerized development with traditional development, or combining legacy applications with microservices.
“As organizations transform their enterprise systems, multiple infrastructures for different workloads and applications are needed,” said Thomas Di Giacomo, SUSE CTO. “This often means integrating cloud-based platforms into enterprise systems, merging containerized development with traditional development, or combining legacy applications with microservices.”
So is SUSE strategizing smartly? Will the new independent company status and other developments such as HPE now openly selling SUSE OpenStack 9 (a technology to deploy and manage heterogeneous cloud infrastructure) into its customer base allow this essentially ‘geek chic’ firm to flourish?
The company points to its business momentum and states that revenue grew approximately 15 percent in the fiscal year 2018 — the business is about to surpass the US$400 million revenue mark for the first time. Further, all regions of the world saw SUSE revenue growth in the past year and more than 300 employees were added in the past 12 months in 34 country locations, with SUSE staff now approaching 1,750 globally.
How does open source development develop?
As enterprise open source now becomes so much more prevalent in the technology platforms that we all use and are exposed to, do we know how it is developed and whether it has the expansiveness to suit all the real world use case requirements that it has the opportunity to deliver on? In other words, how does open source development now develop?
“Unique use cases in certain industries drive us to steer specific product developments that will serve different aspects of computing from compute [processing] to data storage to big data analytics and so on,” said Daniel Nelson, VP of product solutions at SUSE. “The automotive industry for example is becoming far more Internet of Things (IoT)-centric. This is because modern cars carry so much software (and have so many sensors) that they have effectively become a computer in their own right.”
As a VP of product, Nelson explains the process through which SUSE goes in order to work out how his firm’s technology platform should develop next. He says that we’re moving past the days when software engineers would be given weighty product requirements documents and spec sheets that are tough to follow and hard to digest. Instead, he sees positive progress where developers are told the user ‘stories’ that explain what people are really trying to achieve with technology – and that this allows them to start building more intuitively.
“People joke about the suggestion that developers don’t like customers. But I challenge anyone who says that. If you show engineers what real-world use cases people are struggling with, this goes a long way to helping inspire really great product development,” said SUSE’s Nelson.
One day, open source everything?
When all is said and done, if enterprise open source is becoming so widely accepted, adopted and applied… will it one day be the only way for software to be produced?
“While SUSE benefited from the investments made by its previous parent companies, it is now better positioned to move beyond past successes and markets to capitalize on new opportunities,” said Jay Lyman, 451 Research principal analyst. Lyman’s comments are upbeat, but they stop short of saying whether enterprise open source will become the de facto standard for enterprise IT.
While your typical business or consumer user is still rarely seen running an open source Linux desktop distribution as their operating system of choice, open source Android is obviously doing well on the smartphone and SUSE is targeting the enterprise space via its cloud’s datacenters and server rooms. Regardless of market tiering and platform specifics, growth in open source is rapid… it’s likely that you and I will be using more of it today, tomorrow and onwards.
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