SUSE Brings In Former SAP Exec as CEO
SUSE, the Linux and open-source vendor, has replaced its CEO in a surprise move that comes just four months after the company regained its independence as a standalone business.
The new CEO, Melissa Di Donato, is the first woman to take the company’s helm since SUSE was founded in 1992. Di Donato comes to SUSE Linux from SAP, where she served as chief operating officer and chief revenue officer since 2016.
Di Donato replaces Nils Brauckmann, who had led SUSE for the last eight years as CEO, helping the company through its acquisition in March by investment company EQT Partners after being sold by its previous owner, 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.
That’s perhaps where Di Donato comes in, to help continue SUSE’s drive for more business. She will officially begin her new role on Aug. 5.
“There is no greater honor than to lead SUSE into its next chapter of accelerated growth and corporate development,” Di Donato said. “SUSE is at the cusp of a historic shift as open-source software is now a critical part of any thriving enterprise’s core business strategy.”
Under her leadership, the company will continue to work on behalf of its open-source software community, customers, partners and shareholders to push SUSE forward.
Channel Futures couldn’t reach Di Donato today for comment.
At SAP, Di Donato was responsible for worldwide revenue, profit and customer satisfaction for that company’s digital core products. Prior to SAP, she worked for Salesforce.com for six years as a vice president.
She is described as having a “forward-thinking leadership style and is a passionate advocate for workplace diversity,” according to SUSE.
As part of that, Di Donato is the technology group chair of the 30% Club, an organization pursuing a goal of getting women appointed to at least 30% of the boards of Standard & Poor 100 corporations by 2020.
In a statement announcing his retirement, outgoing CEO Brauckmann said he’s proud to hand over the company to Di Donato, who he called a “proven and dynamic change agent” who will help lead the business to realize its full potential as the new SUSE CEO.
Di Donato will focus on SUSE’s commercial success and innovation in its core business as well as in emerging technologies, both organically and through add-on acquisitions.
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told Channel Futures that Di Donato’s hiring is sensible for several practical reasons, including that SUSE reportedly is one of SAP’s largest customers. That means that she’s likely well acquainted with the company and its business, he said.
“In her previous position as SAP’s COO and chief revenue officer, she helped SAP achieve stellar growth despite substantial pressure from competitors,” said King. “That sort of performance is what SUSE’s owner, EQT, is probably hoping to replicate.”
But that will likely be challenging in the current open-source marketplace, said King.
“Despite being the market’s oldest Linux vendor, SUSE is generally included on the ‘others’ category when it comes to market share,” compared to market leader Red Hat, which IBM recently acquired, he said. “Barring a highly unlikely collapse by Red Hat, that’s where SUSE is likely to remain, at least in the short term.”
Another analyst, Maribel Lopez, principal of Lopez Research, said Di Donato’s appointment is an interesting move.
“I’d say open source needs qualified leaders who understand how to grow and operate a business property,” she said. “As COO and CRO, Di Donato has held the right positions to help a company like SUSE grow to the next level. It’s always great to have another female in technology role model for others entering the industry. In my opinion, it’s important to focus on the aspects of meritocracy as we look at women in tech.”
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.