“Our goal is to advance Linux as a technology and collaborate with the community for mutual benefits”

SUSE is banking big on the Indian market. It is getting aggressive about increasing its market share in the enterprise space. The new team of leaders, courtesy its acquisition by the Attachmate Group, has some different plans. The team members want to grow the business but still want to keep SUSE’s roots in the open source community intact. Diksha P Gupta from Open Source For You spoke to Nils Brauckmann,  president and general manager of SUSE and Venkatesh Swaminathan, country manager, The Attachmate Group (India). Excerpts:

Nils, what brings you to India?
Nils: First of all, India is a very interesting market for us. We have been investing in this market since many years with our team, business partners and business partner networks. From time to time, we try to stay in touch with the market to personally get to know customers better, to talk to prospects and to promote SUSE as a company, as well as its solutions and services.

SUSE has now been acquired by the Attachmate group. What do you find interesting in India from Attachmate’s perspective?
Nils: I worked for the Attachmate group earlier and now I am heading SUSE. In my previous role, I was vice president for Eastern Europe and Africa. So my engagements with Asia were very limited. But now my focus is the Asian market place, where India is obviously a major player. What is special about this market is that we have a couple of very fast growing economies that are undergoing a change at the enterprise level and the customer landscape very fast. These markets are, generally speaking, interesting for every vendor. Two of the BRIC countries are a part of the Asian market and India is one of the most dominant of those. So what I have observed is that there is more dynamism, development, engagement and receptiveness to new technologies. These are very lively and vibrant markets, both with regard to growth and the adoption of technology. I wonder whether it has also to do with the fact that the societies we are talking about are very young. The share of young people in India is much bigger than in some of the European countries or in the US.
With regard to enterprise needs, you would be surprised that we are talking large enterprises. Many of these enterprises work globally in terms of selling their products and having global teams. So if you compare a global enterprise based out of India to any other part of the world, it has similar needs, challenges and attitudes towards open source. Many of the enterprises tell me that they are frustrated with their traditional vendors and feel locked into the vendor solutions. Sometimes they don’t get vendors who listen to them and concentrate on their needs. So open source technologies support them better in such cases and can add value to these companies.

If I look at the revenue I am generating with the SUSE business, its $225 million annually. Almost 39 per cent of it is coming from Eastern Europe and Africa, another 41 per cent is coming from the US and 18 per cent of it comes from Asia Pacific. The biggest markets in this region are China and India. Linux is sold everywhere and there is tremendous adoption of open source technology by corporations and enterprises everywhere around the world. India is the second largest market for me in the APAC region. We have over 35 per cent of market share in China, which is the biggest market for us. But that’s not our largest market. We sell more products in Central Europe.
India is significantly important for us. We all know that a portion of the IT technology heart beats in India. There is so much development and engineering talent in the country. Almost every large vendor has invested in its engineering arm in India. What started as offshore engineering for simple engineering tasks to generate cost savings has developed over the years into much more strategic engineering work and strategic engineering participation by the Indian-based development teams and companies. India has a huge group of IT skills that contribute to technological conversations in a very different way.

How much has SUSE changed after the Attachmate take over?
Nils: One of the most important things that has changed is that we are now more independent and more focused on open source and Linux. SUSE was one of the product brands of Novell and in many cases SUSE had to play a role within the bigger Novell product portfolio and the larger Novell marketing strategy. When Novell got acquired, the new management said that we will continue to sell different technologies but we will organise them in a different way. So they organised the company into four business units. The Attachmate Group has four business units and I am heading the SUSE business unit, which is 100 per cent dedicated to open source, Linux and open source cloud solutions. So, now we decide on product development or go-to-market strategies, keeping Linux and open source in mind, which is different from the past. Our goal is to advance Linux as a technology and collaborate with the community for mutual benefits by listening to each other, understanding each other and working in a collaborative way.

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You are excited about the Indian developer community. What are you trying to do to bridge the gap between SUSE the company and SUSE’s community? And how would you describe the relationship between the two?
Nils: First of all, I would like to confirm that we have been an open source company for over 20 years. The open source movement began when Linux took off in 1991. Linux celebrated its 20th birthday a year ago and this year, SUSE celebrated its birthday. So, what I mean is since 20 years, we have not just ‘had a relationship with the community’ but we are a part of the community. The founders and owners of our company were community guys. These people came out of the Linux community itself and they realised over a period of time that if open source technology is used in enterprises and companies can put their business applications on Linux as a platform, it will do great. But the community alone is not enough for this because if there is a business problem, it has to be fixed then and there while the community works on voluntary initiatives. Businesses obviously cannot wait for voluntary initiatives. So this is what SUSE business is all about. But we are a part of the community like everyone else. Many of my engineers are very active in the community, so they contribute to the community programs. When I say community, I do not mean just the SUSE community but also other communities.
As a community, we add something on top, which is hardening the code base, providing service and support to make it ready for the enterprise to use and rely on. Our open source community called openSUSE develops pretty much the same operating system. A lot of innovation that happens in the SUSE enterprise Linux server happens in openSUSE. We have teams in the company that collaborate with the openSUSE development team, provide them funding so that they have resources to get their work done; provide content, engineers; and sometimes we rent space for them to hold their conferences. So we help the  community to work together and to survive. That is totally collaboration based. So I do not have the power to tell the openSUSE community what they must work on. We are also working with the OpenStack community. We play an important role there as well. We are their platinum sponsors, so we finance the community to make sure that it works. One of our employees is the first chairman of the OpenStack board, not because we appointed him but because he was elected by the community. So there are many examples of us engaging, collaborating and contributing. But no one can force the community to do anything.

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To read the full interview, grab your OSFY Jan 2013 issue from your nearest newsstands or subscribe to the print edition at http://electronicsforu.com/electronicsforu/subscription/subsc2scheme.asp#

 

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