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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.

 

Open Cloud Roundup: Top Stories of the Week

Our Digital Content Editor Libby Clark is away from the office this week, so I'm bringing you the Linux.com Open Cloud Roundup. The release of ownCloud 4, and the data surfaced from the Future of Open Source survey provide some interesting news bits this week, while Reuven Cohen and Matt Asay both make interesting points about the trajectory of cloud computing in their blogs.

Build Your Own Open Source Cloud with ownCloud 4

ZDNet

Steven Vaughan-Nichols writes a useful review of this week's ownCloud 4 release, pointing to its ease-of-use and saying that "ownCloud brings everything I need in one place so that I can run my own cloud my own way." The best thing about ownCloud is you can keep all your data on your own servers and choose the other public clouds with which you want to integrate. 

Open Source Finds its Way into Mobile, Cloud, Big Data

eWeek

A group of open source software companies this week released The Future of Open Source Survey, which we covered here at Linux.com. One of the interesting findings that eWeek surfaced in their story lead is that 40 percent of new open source projects in 2011 address cloud computing (followed by mobile apps and mobile enterprise projects). This reflects the importance of Linux and open source software in enabling an open cloud experience for IT users who need interoperability, low costs and flexibility.

Interest in Cloud Computing Has Peaked

Forbes.com

Reuven Cohen makes a case, based on web search data, that interest in the cloud has peaked. He shares data that shows web searches for cloud computing terms are down and points to Gartner's Hype Cycle to illustrate we're headed into the phase defined as the "trough of disillusionment." This is when the real winners and losers are exposed and real products start coming to market and real deployments can be analyzed from start to finish. The next phase? "Slope of enlightenment." We can't wait.

Red Hat Could Cash In With Open Source Cloud Juggling Act

The Register

While this post is a summary of Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst's OSBC keynote, Matt Asay makes some really important points about the role of Linux and open source software in the cloud. Here are just a couple excerpts:

"Cloud computing is all the rage these days, but it's really a natural consequence of the open-source trend that started decades ago. Cloud computing is essentially impossible in any major way without open-source software at its heart, a point Google has stressed for years. The economics just don't work without high-quality free software with minimal licensing friction."

"We see this in the explosion of interest in Big Data, but that's just the sexy, Silicon Valley way of articulating the shift toward information-driven businesses. Those businesses can only afford to be so information-driven, however, because of how open source and other technology forces have dramatically lowered the cost of computing and communication."

Seems to me we need to ask Matt to do another Q&A with us here on Linux.com about this topic (hint hint, Matt).

Until next week.

 

 

 

How to Become a Finalist: Inspired by Linux T-shirt Design Contest

I'm inspried by a variety of things, both small and large: a really good cup of coffee, great art, contribution, reading the Sunday New York Times, sitting in the Linux kernel panel session at LinuxCon. But this year in particular, I'm more inpsired than ever by what is happening because of Linux. The Raspberry Pi is putting computing power in anyone's hands; the Cadillac Cue is illustrating just the tip of the iceberg of what Linux is doing for car infotainment systems; and Google, Facebook and Amazon all continue to push the limits on how we connect as a global culture thanks to Linux. This year, too, Linux is playing a major role in how we define the open cloud and is bringing more attention to why we need to fight for openness in cloud computing.

All of these reasons and more are why we created a theme for this year's Linux Foundation T-shirt contest, "Inspired by Linux." My colleague Libby Clark last week shared a video that gives me goosebumps and that we can already see by the submissions coming in are inspiring people to design this year's T-shirt. To provide even more inspiration and direction on how to become a finalist, I thought I'd share last year's finalists. I hope this helps designers understand the basic elements we're lookging for when choosing the top 5-7 for community vote: artistic quality, originality, creativity, simplicity in design, and adherence to the contest theme. Enjoy the slideshow, and we look forward to reviewing your design. And, to this year's two winners-to-be, we'll see you at LinuxCon and CloudOpen!

 

 

New Linux Kernel Adds X32 ABI, Btrfs Updates

It's been a "calm" release cycle, according to Linus Torvalds, but the 3.4 Linux kernel released on Sunday still has plenty of interesting new features. Top of the bill? A X32 application binary interface (ABI) that will help provide better performance for applications that don't really need huge chunks of memory or 64-bit variables.

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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

 
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