The last 14 months have been eventful for SUSE as it began a new chapter in its history. In April, 2011, The Attachmate Group bought Novell (which had purchased SUSE in 2004 for $210 million) and SUSE for $2.2 billion. SUSE now functions as an independent business unit. Its main products are the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and the SUSE Studio, development tools. ITIC interviewed Michael Miller, SUSE’s Vice President of Global Alliances & Marketing and Kerry Kim, the company’s director of Product Marketing. The two SUSE executives discussed the initiatives since the Attachmate acquisition and detailed SUSE’s current and future product, key alliance partners and business strategies.
Laura DiDio, ITIC: Describe SUSE’s strategic focus and direction in the 14 months since Attachmate purchase.
Michael Miller: Our first job was to reconnect with partners, alliances and customers. We brought a stable continuity of people, engineering, alliance, sales and support and reintroduced ourselves as a SUSE business. I immediately traveled to meet with global alliance partners including, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Microsoft and SAP. We got a very positive response; everyone was happy to see the SUSE brand being carried forward. The second thing was determining the focus and our core areas of business. We don’t want to be all things to all people. We spent a lot of time figuring out where we could be key and core to our partners and customers. It was an intensive process and very team building. We came up with three focus areas. They are: Enterprise Linux, Cloud infrastructure and integrated systems. SUSE Linux Enterprise is aimed at addressing the most demanding, data and compute-intensive workloads to deliver services in real time for databases, large performance SAP applications and HPC (high performance computing). The second initiative centers on the cloud and cloud infrastructure. SUSE has a significant business with the Amazon public cloud; we’ve seen with 10% increase month-over- month on Amazon. We want to expand that and make sure SUSE is a pivotal player there and we’re ramping very quickly. We’re also very excited about the private cloud infrastructure. We see the OpenStack project as the Open Source part of Cloud Infrastructure. At BrainShare 2011, SUSE said it would join and contribute to the OpenStack Foundation; we’re part of the founding and drafting committee. We want to make our private cloud offering the most durable, stable, and easiest to deploy and manage and the most cost efficient to implement. At the same time, SUSE wants to ensure that there’s no vendor lock-in; they can build a stack that’s tuned to the business needs. And we want to combine [our offerings] with the SUSE tools. SUSE is operating system agnostic and hypervisor agnostic.
ITIC: You hired back a lot of the original SUSE engineers in Germany.
MM: That’s correct. When The Attachmate Group acquired Novell we carried over the entire German engineering organization led by Ralf Flaxa, who is the vice president. And we’ve also brought back a lot of former SUSE engineers. The organization totals about 750 people.
ITIC: Describe SUSE’s present initiatives.
MM: We’re into an interactive engaged phase with our partners and alliances e.g. SAP Hanna appliances which all run on SUSE Linux. It’s the fastest growing product SAP has had in the last 15 years and we’ve had great success at aligning with customers and alliance partners for Private Cloud. We have customers like BMW that want to develop a cloud offering and we’re launching them with customers worldwide over the next six months – up to 20 customers. Because we’re working with partners and have our own services organization we want to scale globally and in collaboration with OEM hardware partners and major customers. We’re also very focused on exceeding the overall Linux industry revenue and booking growth rates in fiscal 2013 and so far we are doing so.
ITIC: Is SUSE targeting any specific vertical market segments?
MM: Yes, we’re particularly focused on automotive, aerospace, defense and retail. Nearly all of the global automakers like BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Renault, Toyota, Volkswagen and others are SUSE customers. And Nearly 80 percent of US Fortune 500aerospace and defense companies and 70 percent of US Fortune 100 general merchandisers, specialty retailers, and food and drug stores deploy SUSE Linux Enterprise.
ITIC: SUSE Enterprise Linux has consistently performed well in ITIC’s Reliability Surveys, what have you done to improve performance and availability?
Kerry Kim: As a generalphilosophy, engineering excellence has been a cultural and core value for us for the past 20 years. We’ve focused on commercializing Open Source software. We continually fine tune our various engineering processes and automate test processes to insure they are fully integrated. This in turn optimizes performance, scalability and reliability. That quality has been part of the fabric of SUSE. On the technical side, we’ve continued to push the envelope to get those features that would achieve parity and surpass UNIX distributions. With each successive product release SUSE tries to introduce more robust file systems, tracing, tuning and Operating system level virtualization (akin to Sun/Oracle containers and zones). We also support the latest XEN and KVM releases. And we’ve introduced commercial support for Linux containers. – OS level virtualization; on the file system side, we’ve introduced commercial support for Butter MS to rollback changes in a scalable file system like ZFS. And on the tracing side, we’ve introduced support for LTTNG (Next Gen Linux Tracing Toolkit) to give customers the ability at the kernel level to monitor and see how various threads interact and impact OS performance. Earlier this year we released SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 Service Pack 2. That is supportedon Dell’s latest 12G Servers and IBM System X. We are concentrating on a forward looking developing model so we can deliver the innovation support for latest hardware and chipsets. We do a lot of integration testing with hardware and software partners so that we can achieve greater reliability.
ITIC: SUSE also gets high marks for robust security. What are you doing there?
KK: One reason we haven’t had as many problems is that rivals get used more – security by obscurity. Traditionally, Linux has been more of a back end, behind-the- datacenter door operating system. I t gets used in specific scenarios like thin clients and SUSE benefitted from that. Every OS must be inherently secure and you have to allow it to be and remain secure when you deploy other products like firewalls. SUSE has been working active on both fronts. We’ve submitted all of our platforms for security Carrier Grade certification for both the government and telecommunications industries. There are a number of tools and packages that are part of the SUSE Linux Enterprise distribution such as both IPV 4 and the new IPV 6 support.
ITIC: Can you describe SUSE’s activities with key OEM partners like Microsoft?
MM: Back in November 2006, Novell and Microsoft signed a wide-ranging partnership and patent cross-licensing agreement to ensure SUSE’s continued interoperability with Microsoft Windows. Last July, SUSE and Novell renewed the agreement for four more years to 2016. In addition, in early June, we announced that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and openSUSE can now be run in Windows Azure Virtual Machines. Additionally, through SUSE Studio, customers can rapidly develop cloud-ready applications and automatically launch them on Windows Azure, virtually eliminating inefficient manual processes. Through the SUSE Cloud Program, SUSE makes it easy for cloud vendors to offer differentiated services that speed customer acquisition. Many of today’s top global cloud providers offer SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to help IT organizations deliver mission-critical IT services efficiently and cost-effectively in cloud environments. In addition to Microsoft, we have a number of cloud providers that have joined the SUSE Cloud Program including, Amazon Web Services, Dell, Fujitsu, IBM, Intel, SHI, SGI, Verizon and Vodacom Business. The Microsoft/SUSE alliance jointly sells SUSE Manager and SUSE Studio as part of our solution portfolio. Our strategy is to support mixed environments in the cloud as well as in the data center. And it’s working: to date Microsoft and SUSE have 800+ joint customers worldwide.
ITIC: Can you detail SUSE’s initiatives with other partners like SAP and IBM?
MM: SUSE is the number one Linux platform for SAP customers; over 3,500 SAP customers run on SUSE Linux Enterprise and we provide joint 24×7 technical support leveraging SAP Solution Manager. We’re strategic for SAP in the datacenter and in the cloud supporting SAP HANA / SAP BWA, SAP Business ByDesign and SAP StreamWork Enterprise. With respect to VMware, the vSphere customers are entitled to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server maintenance at no additional cost and they have an option to purchase technical support direct from VMware. Additionally, VMware is standardized on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for all VMware appliances and the vCenter Appliance based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is available now. SUSE and VMware are pursuing joint technical optimizations and go-to-market programs. SUSE also has very strong partnerships with OEM hardware vendors including Dell, HP and IBM. SUSE’s relationship with IBM is equally strong. This spring, we teamed with IBM to deliver SUSE Linux Enterprise on IBM’s PowerLinux servers.
ITIC: What can SUSE customers and the industry expect in the 2012 -2013 timeframe?
MM: We’ve got a very big push involving Cloud Infrastructure and we’ll launch the first SUSE CON conference September 18th – 21st in Orlando – focused entirely on Linux technology and customer partners. By delivering SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in the cloud, we’re helping customers to increase flexibility and resource utilization while reducing the management burden and risk. Through our overall vendor alliances, we provide our joint customers the ability to take advantage of the most certified applications of any Linux vendor and a robust solution, such as SUSE Studio, for developing and deploying mission-critical Linux workloads on a pay-per-use basis to Windows Azure. One of the main ideas behind the new service is to create a hybrid cloud to enable applications to run across the cloud and servers that customers have more direct access. Earlier this month we announced support for Windows Azure Virtual Machines. This allows customers to move virtual hard disks (VHDs), with the configured systems based on Windows Server or Linux, between the cloud and local servers. So we’ve made it easy for businesses to extend SUSE Linux Enterprise Server-based applications to Windows Azure using the one-click-deployment capabilities of SUSE Studio. We’ve also included automatic maintenance capabilities that will keeps SUSE Linux Enterprise Server up-to-date on the most current security patches, bug fixes and new features, so customers can get peak performance efficiently and cost- effectively.
KK: We have additional products that complement the server OS – various tools and frameworks that enable our customers to standardize, simplify deployment and to manage their Linux infrastructure. We’re finding that in this growing virtual and cloud-based world that these tools are valuable for partners and enterprises. For example, we’ve allowed Dell to use our SUSE OS platform in their OEM Solutions business. These are products that they build and deliver but Dell and our customers can leverage our tools like SUSE Studio that lets them customize the OS and customize the OS for different form factors like turnkey physical or virtual solutions. Dell sells integrated hardware and software and they are specifically targeting enterprises in specific verticals like healthcare – for instance GE [General Electric Co.] for ultrasound and MRI systems. Dell is taking their supply chain expertise and marrying it to our products and tools and you’ll see more of that type of innovation. Through the SUSE Cloud Program, we’re making it easy and efficient for cloud vendors to offer differentiated services that speed customer acquisition. Many of today’s top global cloud providers offer SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to help IT organizations deliver mission-critical IT services efficiently and cost-effectively in cloud environments. In addition to Microsoft, cloud providers that have joined the SUSE Cloud Program include 1&1, Amazon Web Services, Dell, Fujitsu, IBM, Intel, Tencent, SHI, SGI, Verizon and Vodacom Business.
By delivering SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in the cloud, SUSE helps companies increase flexibility and resource utilization while reducing risk. Through our alliance with Microsoft, we provide our joint customers with the ability to take advantage of the most certified applications of any Linux vendor and a robust solution, such as SUSE Studio, for developing and deploying mission-critical Linux workloads on a pay-per-use basis to Windows Azure. One of the main ideas behind the new service is to create a hybrid cloud to enable applications to run across the cloud and servers that customers have more direct access.