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New SUSE CEO wants enterprise Linux firm to be "unafraid to evolve"

Red Hat veteran has warm words for open source but...

New SUSE CEO Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen has officially taken the reins at the enterprise Linux company – saying on his first day that the company needs to be “agile and unafraid to evolve” as it continues to grow.

SUSE, which provides enterprise Linux Operating Systems, container management and storage, reported ARR of $655 million in Q1, up 11% year-on-year and continues to eye acquisition opportunities in “high-growth adjacent markets” after buying Kubernetes specialist Rancher for a reported $600 million in 2020.

Van Leeuwen is a Red Hat veteran now set to go head-to-head with his former employer.

He takes over from Melissa di Donato who left the company in late March.

Previously: SUSE CEO - “We have devised a plan for Rancher”

His first blog for the company appeared aimed at reassuring staff that open source remained critical to its future but hinted obliquely at strategic changes in the not-too-distant future as SUSE shares underperform.

The company has also grappled with how best to monetise its Rancher acquisition after customers initially continued to lean in to the free version of its software amid broad industry pressure on IT budgets.

SUSE in December 2022 announced the launch of Rancher Prime, its  new enterprise subscription, which introduced the option to deploy Rancher from a trusted private registry and has since added SLA-backed enterprise support for policy and OS management for the enterprise-grade container workload offering.

New SUSE CEO: “I still code at weekends…”

“Before open source was my career, it was my passion. I’m an engineer at heart and that’s never changed, despite the many roles I have done since I started out. I still code at weekends. My current project is working on a better way of automating kitchen blinds” the new SUSE CEO told staff in a first day blog on May 1.

“The open source development model has been – and still is – driving the exponential innovation happening around us. SUSE is uniquely placed to bring this innovation to our customers with products and services that are optimized for highly secure and business critical environments. This will require us to keep what is best of SUSE, but also be brave and challenge ourselves to be better,” he said, without offering further details.

SUSE’s customers include Home Depot, which deploys SUSE’s K3s (originally a Rancher Labs project and since donated to the CNCF) which delivers a lightweight Kubernetes distribution for running production workloads across resource-restrained, remote locations. Home Depot uses this to underpin 2,200 clusters in production.

Sharing the piece from the new SUSE CEO, SUSE CDIO Christine Ashton commented: “Open source continues to evolve and after 30+ years has more than demonstrated its viability, despite the emergence of the Everything as a Service model 'EaaS' There is much interest in open source software in mission-critical and also non-traditional areas and emerging technologies. Every CIO and CTO should have it as part of their strategy.”

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