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SUSE Turns 20, Ascends to the Cloud

Congratulations to SUSE on celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The company has successfully evolved from a three-man consultancy in Germany that produced one of the first Linux distributions, to an international platform for enterprise computing with a future in cloud computing. VP of Engineering Ralf Flaxa reminisces here about the company’s two decades in business and makes predictions about where it’s headed in the next 20 years.

Linux.com: What’s the significance of 20 years in business?

Ralf Flaxa: The significance comes in our longevity, which even surprises us to a degree. In fact, our first reaction was “Hey, 20 years!” There have been many other distributions that have come and gone – we were one of the first and we’re still here. We view the staying power as very significant.

The essence of the milestone doesn’t only speak to our experience, but in our ability to help develop the overall community of Linux while becoming a leader on the business side. For example, SLES was the first fully-supported enterprise Linux distribution. Building an enterprise-class version of Linux took the first step in the technology’s growth in the business community, which is widely supportive of Linux now. So did early support for mission-critical computing, a key advantage which Linux is now known for within enterprise IT.

We’re proud to have worked on such a game-changing technology; we see ourselves as an example of the technology’s success.

Linux.com: How has SUSE’s history evolved with the popularity of Linux?

Flaxa: As you might know, SUSE started as S.u.S.E – loosely translated in German for “software and system development.” It was primarily a consulting company, with Linux as one of the areas of their emerging business.

But the smartest decision the founders of SUSE made was to believe in Linux early on. It wasn’t popular at the time, but as Linux grew, so did SUSE’s business. While some companies hedged their assets with other open source projects, SUSE bet on Linux – that bet is still paying off. It was the center of our business model.

With Linux at its core, SUSE did a lot to introduce Linux to a larger group of people. Many people don’t remember SUSE as a publishing company, but it issued a book and a CD for people to start using Linux easily. Those days were before the Internet, so SUSE invested much of its resources to help students access and use Linux more easily and effectively. SUSE didn’t just ride the wave – it did a lot to make it more known; more accessible; more usable. As Linux took off, the technology started helping SUSE’s name recognition as well, so I’d say that early support paid off on a number of fronts.

People now think about Linux as an empowered community of developers that promote an open model. With the community in mind, the introduction and growth of openSUSE is important to cite as well. What started as a SUSE-funded project now has the support of 30,000 people around the world. We helped create and support the community whose passion and creativity is what makes Linux so special. It’s one of our proudest accomplishments.

Linux.com: What are some of the biggest milestones SUSE experienced during the first two decades?

Flaxa: The first key milestone was the distribution in the form of CDs in books and magazines. It seems elementary by today’s standards, but it made Linux available for everyone, cheaply and easily.

Another milestone was the ability for graphical, automated installation, so Linux installations could be done graphically and recognize hardware automatically. At that time, the majority of users were very technical, fine with a command-line. They could perform the difficult installations, but it wasn’t until Linux was more usable that it became more popular. SUSE contributed a lot to make this process a reality.

After installation advances came the support by the database vendors. After IBM joined in 2000, we had Oracle and Adabas offer their support. That was huge – once the first peg fell, the others followed.

The investment from IBM in 2000 was also highly important. That was the real support of an industry leader. In that context, SUSE can say we were the first with IBM on the mainframe, which actually became the start of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

The acquisition by Novell was another major milestone. It brought SUSE more international exposure. Before, it was more European. Even though SUSE was somewhat international, Novell made it really global.

And very recently, after the Attachmate Group acquired Novell, we've again established SUSE as an independent business unit with a laser focus on the enterprise Linux market and an even stronger commitment to the communities and projects that we are so passionate about.

Linux.com: How has the company’s philosophy changed since 1992?

Flaxa: If you ask the founders themselves, they’ll tell you they never had a company philosophy. But I think they did, whether they knew it or not. The philosophy of SUSE is a culture of open collaboration. SUSE is all about the freedom to access source code, make changes, play around and find new ways to make Linux better. While that philosophy started on a small level in Germany, what’s shifted is that freedom has expanded all over the world; all for the betterment of Linux.

That said, Linux has evolved into a big business. Of course, the founders wanted to make money. Paychecks are involved, which has made SUSE more of a business than its original philosophy. That has certainly changed, but it did show the world you can build a business on Linux. But with all of the business it does, SUSE is an open source-based company. It started with the core value and goal to collaboratively develop quality technology – and it will continue to use those core qualities and goals as the basis for all SUSE does. 

Linux.com: Where do you see SUSE going during the next 20 years?

Flaxa: 20 years is an eternity, but we see a few interesting developments. At the very beginning, when we first met Linus Torvalds, he said one very important thing: it all depends on the applications. He was right. Think about how far we’ve come in terms of applications certified on Linux in the enterprise. Most of the things you need to run a business work on Linux. This would have been unheard of 20 years ago, so anything is possible.

One new frontier for Linux comes in the consumer market. If you look at tablets, smartphones, small devices, the whole UI is changing. The experience is changing. You have a device that accesses the cloud.  You have an app for everything – and thanks to Android, Linux is getting all the apps for the regular user you always needed.

For enterprise Linux and SUSE as a business, we see a new frontier in cloud as well – both the public cloud and the private cloud. SUSE has already had its “eyes in the clouds” by joining and participating in OpenStack. We’ll have a series of innovative technologies stemming from that project coming this year, and we’re placing a great deal of resources in providing and solidifying open source’s place in the cloud-based technology.

You’ll see a lot of Linux in everything we use – from tablets, smartphones, supercomputers, firewalls, even washing machines. 20 years from now, we really will see Linux everywhere. It will be so omnipresent, so visible, that the majority of people won’t even realize that it’s Linux. This will be true for enterprise businesses as well – the infrastructure behind their most demanding and mission critical systems, both in the cloud and in their data center, will be running on Linux. That’s the vision we have, and SUSE will play a major role in that change.

 

Survey: Open Source Adoption Rises, Drives Innovation

More than 50 percent of all software purchased within five years will be open source, according to a survey released Monday by a collaboration of 26 open source companies.

This year’s “Future of Open Source Survey” results signal a tipping point for open source software adoption in the enterprise and non-technical industries such as automotive, health care and finance. In the auto industry, for example, 59 percent of the companies surveyed use open source software and 35 percent said they’re evaluating it.

Of the 740 companies surveyed, 42 percent said adoption in the non-technical segments was the No. 1 trend driving open source in 2012. 

“It indicates the maturing and awareness of the technology and its benefits,” said Peter Vescuso, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Black Duck Software, a survey sponsor.


Open Source Drives Innovation

That broader adoption creates a larger community for testing and feedback, a “virtuous cycle,” that’s driving innovation in cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing, mobile and big data, according to the report. The innovation cycle is also giving way to new business models.

Industries are moving toward cloud computing, which is enabled by open source software, said Michael Skok, General Partner of North Bridge Venture Partners. Cloud, in turn, allows for more mobile and data adoption.

“All of these areas build on each other as non-technical industries look to solutions,” Skok said.

They turn to open source software to escape vendor lock-in, lower costs and increase quality, according to the survey. As further proof that the industry is maturing, this marked the first year that quality ranked among the top three reasons in the study’s six-year history.

“I see open source projects such as Drupal or Linux win more often because it’s the better technology, rather than just win on price,” said Dries Buytaert, co-founder and CTO of Acquia and President of the Drupal Association. “It has the better functionality because we’re a community driven innovation model. That means it has become the better solution.”

The combination of technology, development and business innovation is all coming from a more open and accessible community-based process.

“To call it open source software falls way short of all of these elements coming together,” Vescuso said. “I’d characterize it as open innovation.”

More interesting stats from the study:

Number of Survey Respondents in 2011: 455

Number in 2012: 740

41% Vendors
59% Non-vendors

Top Barriers to Open Source Selection:

Unfamiliarity with open source solutions 48%
Lack of internal technical skills 47%
Lack of formal commercial vendor support 35%

Factors influencing the choice of OSS projects for non-vendors

Project maturity 46%
Availability of commercial support 21%
Size of the community 20%

What aspect of OSS experience is most important to hiring decisions?

Experience with a variety of projects 35%
Code contributions 28%

Hot OSS companies

Red Hat
Canonical
Acquia
Enterprise DB
Google
Ntando

 

Open Cloud Roundup: Top Stories this Week

This week's open source cloud headlines yielded the not-so-suprising news that NASA will discontinue support for the OpenStack cloud platform it helped engineer. The reason? OpenStack is now receiving commercial support and the agency's funds are best spent elsewhere, according to Datacenter Dynamics. 

OpenCloudRoundup2Uptime: NASA to cut involvement in OpenStack
Datacenter Dynamics
The agency that was central to developing the OpenStack platform has announced it will no longer be involved in the project. NASA will also stop work on Nebula, the cloud infrastructure developed alongside OpenStack.

OpenShift PaaS Roadmap for Enterprises Outlined by Red Hat
Application Development Trends

Red Hat announced its open source PaaS offering for the enterprise, a competitor to VMWare’s Cloud Foundry. 

A Mobile Storm in the Cloud (Infographic)
EngineYard.com via AllTop
This isn't open source specific, but the connection between mobile computing and the growth of PaaS, the third largest cloud category, is interesting. PaaS is expected to grow 232% between 2010 and 2014. Who are the big open source PaaS providers? Red Hat's OpenShift, for one. VMWare's Cloud Foundry is another.

Open Source Cloud Computing: Could It Be Part of Your Next Cloud Project?
Midsize Insider
When does it make sense for mid-size businesses to use open source frameworks for cloud computing? Web and social applications are a good fit. Internal IT skills are a must, according to this article. And for many, it may be too soon. The article argues that security is still an issue for SMBs in cloud adoption, but a Microsoft study on cloud adoption disagrees.

Marten Mickos: Openness is Winning in the Cloud
Linux.com
The CEO of Eucalyptus says open source cloud startups are scaling in size with important customers and a large install base that make them competitive with closed source solutions.

 

Marten Mickos: Eucalyptus Opens Up Under Agile Model

As part of our ongoing focus on open source cloud, we talked with Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos about the commoditization of hypervisors, what’s driving his company’s growth and its plans to release Eucalyptus 3.1 soon, marking the company’s shift to a much more open development model. The interview is presented in two parts. Yesterday’s post covered the open cloud, the role of APIs and where open source cloud computing is headed.

Marten Mickos, CEO EucalyptusLinux.com: What’s driving private cloud (Eucalyptus’s specialty)?

Marten Mickos: The driving force now is agility. Companies need the elasticity of cloud to assign infrastructure resources on the fly to different applications and shift the workloads around. That’s why our customers do it. Cloud is a new piece of software on your servers so there must be a benefit to installing it. Agility is that benefit. Longer-term, cloud also gives better manageability and higher utilization.

Linux.com: How much overlap is there between the surge in interest in big data and the open cloud movement? Is one influencing the other?

Mickos: I think both are driven by the large increase in the number of connected devices. The underlying trend is connected devices. How many new devices with an IP address are there? They produce a lot of data and have compute needs. They need clouds to run on and big data to be analyzed. You can run big data solutions on cloud platforms. That’s just a practical reality.

Linux.com:  Is virtualization in the cloud going away? More companies are offering cloud services without the hypervisor. What does that mean for VMware and others?

Mickos: Virtualization is needed and useful but ultimately it will be compressed into the hardware, into the CPU. Sure you can do deployments that don’t use hypervisors and get some improvements in use case. But how do you maintain flexibility of your own virtual machine? I don’t think they’re going away but I can see them being commoditized.

But we shouldn’t think companies like VMWare are losing their business anytime soon. Although the technological change could happen fast, customer deployments happen slowly. They virtualization vendors will be able to monetize that for many years to come. And now they’re moving up the chain into PaaS and IaaS that they didn’t have before.

But with a hypervisor background you might not have the needed frame of thinking for building a cloud. A hypervisor is a single piece of software; it runs in one machine. A cloud platform like Eucalyptus is essentially a multi-machine piece of software.  It takes a different mindset to develop distributed systems.

Here’s an analogy: The world had hierarchical databases, and then someone developed a relational database. It wasn’t the hierarchical designers who came up with it, it took new guys.

Linux.com: Where is Eucalyptus now?

Mickos: We are unique in the space in that we’ve had production use of Eucalyptus for over two years. We have taken a step into mission-critical uses and now have high availability (HA) in the product.

Linux.com: What’s new for you this year and where are you headed?

Mickos: We are growing very rapidly. We shipped Eucalyptus 3.0 which is revolutionary in that it has features no other cloud service has. We signed a deal with AWS and have raised $30 million in capital a few weeks ago.

We have lots of customers going and that’s just the U.S. We’re equally active in China , India and Europe. We’re pushing hard on all those fronts and shipping software faster than before. And we have the financial funds to keep expanding. But it’s always hard to build a company.

The 3.1 release is coming out in two months from now. It will mark the transition we agreed on internally in terms of a new development model. We’re working now under an agile model and we’ll use Git and GitHub for our source code repository.  This marks a much more open model for how we develop our product.

Linux.com: Does that mean Eucalyptus will be completely open source, or will you still reserve some aspects of your code for customers under an “open core” model?

Mickos: The platform is totally open, we will have plugins we give to paying customers. The good news is anybody can develop plugins so we’re a much more pluggable architecture and we’ll welcome that sort of development.

 

2012 Linux Foundation T-shirt Contest: Inspired by Linux

So much has happened recently in the Linux community to be inspired by. This is my second month as the Digital Content Editor for Linux.com and as a newbie member I’ve already met so many amazing people and seen so many significant milestones pass just since I started.

- With the Linux Foundation’s Annual Development Report we learned that more than 7,800 developers from almost 800 different companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since tracking began in 2005.

Their contributions make Linux the largest collaborative development project in the history of computing. That’s pretty amazing, and inspiring.

- Linux Creator and Linux Foundation Fellow Linus Torvalds in April was named a Millennium Technology Prize laureate -- an honor considered to be the Nobel prize of technology.

Wow, am I proud to work in the same community as him.

- New advances are happening all the time, whether it’s Ubuntu’s recent 12.04, the soon-to-be-released Linux 3.4, OpenStack and the open cloud movement, Android seizing market share or the myriad other technologies and trends that form the Linux juggernaut.

You had me at Ubuntu.

Bottom line: This community is continually innovating and inspiring the next generation of Linux products and developers. The list of accomplishments is as diverse as the community that contributes to the success of Linux. I can’t help but be in awe, and I’ll bet you can’t help it either. That’s why we’ve chosen the theme of this year’s T-shirt design contest to be “Inspired by Linux.” Tell us:

How does Linux inspire you?

We invite you to take that kernel of an idea and turn it into an inspiring T-shirt design for the Linux community to wear proudly in our 3rd Annual Linux Foundation T-shirt Design Contest. The design can depict literally or figuratively the events or ideas that get you pumped up for Linux. It can have words, graphics, or both in whatever font and colors you like. Let Linux be your muse.

Submissions are due on June 8. (Submit your design and see the official rules and submission guidelines.)

This year we’re pleased to announce that two winners will be selected by the communty. The first place winner will be reimbursed $2,000 to be applied toward airfare, hotel and admissions to their choice of LinuxCon North America in San Diego, CA on Aug. 26 - 29, 2012, or LinuxCon Europe in Barcelona, Spain Nov. 5-7, 2012. Second place will be reimbursed $1,000 toward LinuxCon North America or LinuxCon Europe in 2012.

We’ve also taken steps this year to ensure a fair voting process. The Linux Foundation staff will choose the top 5-7 submissions from designs received by the deadline. The community will then vote on the finalists to choose two winners. Voters must be registered members of Linux.com and must be logged in to vote. Only one vote per registered member is allowed.

First place will be awarded to the design that receives the most community votes and second place will go to the runner up. Winners will be announced on or around July 17, 2012.

Good luck! I can’t wait to see all of your designs. And if you're looking for more inspiration, check out our contest video:

 
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