There was a time when SUSE was considered to be the second-biggest force driving the adoption of Linux in the enterprise, after Red Hat. Then came an odyssey to rival any epic written by Homer. A few short years after moving its corporate headquarters from Germany to Oakland, California, the company was sold to Novell, which was then later acquired by Attachmate. Three years later, Attachmate was acquired by Micro Focus. Three years after that, SUSE (as an arm of Micro Focus) acquired distributions of OpenStack and the Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS) from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE).
That brings us to 2018, when SUSE was spun out of Micro Focus to become an independent company once again, headquartered in Germany once again. A year later Melissa Di Donato, formerly chief operating officer (COO) of SAP, was named CEO of SUSE. A few months after that, SUSE announced it would withdraw its distribution of OpenStack from the market to focus its efforts on emerging cloud-native opportunities stemming from the rise of Kubernetes.
For SUSE, those opportunities arise from a distribution of Kubernetes deployed on its Linux operating system, which also serves as the foundation for its container-as-a-service (CaaS) environment, along with a version of Cloud Foundry deployed on top of Kubernetes.
Brent Schroeder, global CTO for SUSE, said his company’s strategy is being driven by an acute need for increased flexibility. IT environments are inherently becoming hybrid as more workloads move to the public cloud, and many organizations will want to leverage a common substrate based on Kubernetes for building and deploying applications. In some instances, Kubernetes will be deployed on top of virtual machines, while in other use cases Kubernetes will be deployed on bare-metal servers. IT organizations will then decide to deploy a CaaS or PaaS depending on their requirements, said Schroeder, noting that regardless of the path chosen, IT modernization initiatives will create a significant opportunity for SUSE.
“Virtual machines, bare-metal and the cloud will be a huge catalyst,” said Schroeder.
DevOps, of course, is playing a major role in driving those transitions, which Schroeder said has become a major focus for SUSE as organizations think through how to not just build and deploy applications faster, but also secure and govern those processes. That latest version of SUSE CaaS Platform 4, for example, added support for Cilium open source project for securing network connectivity between containerized application services.
Of course, SUSE is not the only IT vendor making this journey. Red Hat was the first to deploy a PaaS environment on top of Kubernetes and since then has been on a mission to obliterate the distinction between a CaaS and a PaaS environment. As an arm of IBM, Red Hat has also significantly expanded its market research as IBM builds out a hybrid cloud computing strategy based on the Red Hat OpenShift platform.
Of course, Red Hat’s acquisition by IBM might create new opportunities for SUSE. After all, more than a few of the IT organizations that opted to embrace Red Hat OpenShift had plenty of opportunities to consider alternatives from IBM. Now that the acquisition has been finalized, some of them may be reconsidering their options.
It’s too early to say when SUSE might arrive at its ultimate destination. When venture capitalists buy a company such as SUSE the goal is to either take the company public or recoup the investment by selling it to another entity. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear SUSE intends to leave its mark in the brave new world of containerized applications.