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As SUSE Regains Independence, Execs Talk About New Horizons

With a new investor buying SUSE, the company is working to expand its channel resources.

Todd R. Weiss

April 3, 2019

5 Min Read
SUSECon Expo Hall Nashville 2019

(Pictured above: The SUSEcon technology showcase in Nashville, April 3.)

SUSECON — Just a few weeks since SUSE officially was sold by former owner Micro Focus and was given its independence by a new investor on March 15, the company appears to be moving ahead with new products, renewed energy and expanded plans for customers and the channel in the future.

At the company’s annual SUSEcon user conference in Nashville, SUSE executives met with Channel Futures to talk about their visions for the company as it continues its work to help customers solve business problems in managing public, private and hybrid clouds as well as with a wide range of other IT needs affecting businesses, from small to large.

A key part of SUSE’s renewal as an independent company will be the expansion of its partner program, which received improvements and revamping last fall, said Mike Kerr, the company’s director of partner sales.

“We are not a household name here in the U.S.,” said Kerr, pointing out that SUSE’s annual $300 million in revenue is just one-tenth that of market leader Red Hat, which had revenue of $3 billion in fiscal year 2018.

To battle Red Hat and other competitors, SUSE is aiming to build on its product line, which offers customers open-source platforms for Linux, software-defined storage, container and cloud applications, OpenStack cloud deployments and more, said Kerr.

“We have products that are in high demand,” he said. “We need to capture the market opportunities with our channel partners.”

For SUSE, everyone within the company’s sales team and working for their channel partners in North America is working directly with its customers, added Kerr.

“That helps to tie us together more closely to customers and partners. Especially when it comes to engineers and architects, it gives partners closer access to them to talk about problems, the technical needs of customers and about the things that other customers are doing with SUSE products.”

SUSE has 136 members in its higher-level accredited channel partner program, which is up from 18 members back in 2017, said Kerr.

“That’s the end result of a lot of effort in partner recruiting, which is much more targeted today than it may have been previously,” he said. “Accredited partners means they have invested, time, energy and resources with us, which we greatly appreciate, because now they have skin in the game. It is our job to return that investment to them” by helping them to promote products, services and customer relationships.

Since last fall, SUSE bolstered its Accredited partner program, adding additional sales incentives and rewards for reaching specific sales levels.

To continue building on its channel progress, SUSE is working to increase the number of Accredited partners to between 275 to 300 by the end of fiscal 2020, up from the current 136,  said Kerr.

The next direction the company is taking is to identify and enable a set of what SUSE calls “market-ready” partners who have service capabilities to sell and install SUSE products while also providing ongoing day-two support, said Kerr.

Brent Schroeder, SUSE’s CTO for the Americas, told Channel Futures that without the resources and scale of other companies in the IT industry, SUSE works to leverage its channel partner relationships so they become an extension of SUSE and part of its virtual team.

Schroeder-Brent_SUSE.jpg

SUSE’s Brent Schroeder

“As I meet with partners, I find them along the entire spectrum, from those selling hardware and needing an operating system to value-added partners that bring some kind of solutions scenario or vertical add-on [to SUSE products],” he said. “We want to help them with a platform for them to be successful.”

For SUSE’s partners, the company is working to help them not just install and forget the products, but to also have …

… a continuing relationship with customers to help manage the ongoing life cycle of the products and services, said Schroeder.

Another major opportunity for the channel is in helping customers with their problems and needs involving container technologies, he said.

“There’s a huge lack of skill sets in the container space,” said Schroeder. “It’s an emerging space — an opportunity for channel partners is to be a trusted adviser to customers who want to adopt a container application philosophy.”

As he travels and talks with partners, Schroeder said he often hears that SUSE is easier for them to do business with than with other larger organizations.

“I always say that features are fleeting but that it’s a relationship and service and support that go along with that that is enduring,” said Schroeder.

Thomas Di Giacomo, president of engineering, products and innovation for SUSE, said the company has ongoing goals for new innovations to better serve customers and the channel, including emerging technologies such as containers, as well as security, systems management and more.

With SUSE doing about 85 percent of its business through the channel, Di Giacomo said that a significant part of the company’s product and services road map is heavily driven by customers and partners. Listening to those partners is an integral part of his company’s business, he added.

“At SUSE, we’re trying to stay generic when it comes to hardware so we can meet the needs of users through our partners,” he said. “That’s why we listen to them, because they are the ones bringing our products to specific markets.”

Avoiding competition with the company’s partners is important to this strategy, he said.

“We leave room for our partners to grow their business,” said Di Giacomo. “We don’t cannibalize what they are doing or try to sell SUSE services to compete with them. By working together, it is easy to build win-win-win relationships.”

About 1,000 customers, partners and guests are attending this year’s SUSEcon event, according to the company.

In March, SUSE’s acquisition by investment company EQT Partners was finalized, ending its previous ownership by Micro Focus. When EQT’s $2.5 billion acquisition was announced last year, analysts saw it as a move that should be beneficial to partners and customers as SUSE gains more control over its path in the IT industry.

The EQT investment ended more than four years of SUSE ownership by Micro Focus and is the fourth involving SUSE since 2004. SUSE’s previous owners also include Novell and Attachmate.

Under the latest arrangement, SUSE will operate on its own instead of under a corporate umbrella, while having an investor is expected to help the company continue its business growth and open-source mission.

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About the Author(s)

Todd R. Weiss

Todd R. Weiss is an award-winning technology journalist who covers open source and Linux, cloud service providers, cloud computing, virtualization, containers and microservices, mobile devices, security, enterprise applications, enterprise IT, software development and QA, IoT and more. He has worked previously as a staff writer for Computerworld and eWEEK.com, covering a wide variety of IT beats. He spends his spare time working on a book about an unheralded member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, watching classic Humphrey Bogart movies and collecting toy taxis from around the world.

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