Suse renews focus on APAC as independent firm

Open source software company Suse plans to keep up with its growing business momentum in Asia by adding more headcount in emerging markets and shoring up call centre operations

Fresh from its acquisition by growth investor EQT from Micro Focus for $2.5bn, open source software company Suse is now looking towards Asia-Pacific to fuel its growth this year.

Speaking to Computer Weekly in Singapore, Andy Jiang, vice-president for Suse in Asia-Pacific and Japan, said the company currently runs its third largest engineering centre in Beijing, and has recently beefed up its call centre operations in Singapore.

While much of Suse operations, including sales, in Southeast Asia are run out of Singapore, Jiang revealed that the company has recently hired people in Indonesia and Thailand, declining to reveal specific headcount numbers in the region.

Though smaller than US rival Red Hat, Suse has achieved strong growth in Asia-Pacific over the past eight years. Revenue from the region is three times the size it was when Suse became a business unit under Micro Focus in 2014.

Since then, Suse’s Asia-Pacific workforce has grown more than twofold, with its system engineering team doubling in size. It also tripled the number of primary and dedicated support engineers and grew its sales force by 50%.

On the heels of its expansion in Asia-Pacific and with support from its new investor, Suse, which recorded sales of $320m in the 12 months ended October 31, 2017, considers itself to be the biggest independent open source software company amid IBM’s impending acquisition of Red Hat.

Jiang said Suse, as an independent company, will redefine its strategy and remains committed to open source, by giving enterprises the ability to pick and choose the technologies they want to deploy without any lock-in pressure.

“Open source software distributors harden open source products and provide enterprise level support, but they can still figure out a way to force or attract people to be locked in to their product,” Jiang said, adding that Suse will let enterprises only choose the products that meet their needs.

Like most Linux distributors, Suse has expanded its software stack that not only includes the Linux operating system, but also container orchestration capabilities and the OpenStack platform.

While Suse may not match other rivals in overall contributions to open source projects, Jiang said the company focuses on key contributions in projects such as OpenStack.

“For instance, we were one of the founding members of the OpenStack project and to this day, the chairperson is still the director of our corporate strategy in the CTO office,” Jiang added.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Suse serves customers across banking and financial services, telecoms, manufacturing and government. It claimed that three out of the top five banks in China have standardised their IT systems on Suse, which is also the leading open source vendor for the manufacturing industry in India.

Key to its growing success has been its partnerships with hardware and cloud players, as well as big enterprise software suppliers such as SAP which has teamed up with Suse to run SAP workloads, including the high-performance Hana in-memory database, on Suse’s open source software stack.

“In manufacturing, we work with SAP very closely in China, Singapore and India,” Jiang said.

Al Gillen, IDC’s group vice-president for software development and open source, noted that Suse’s return to being an independent company comes at a pivotal point in the industry.

“Open source software is the favoured way to build new solutions today and is irreplaceable as the foundation for most public cloud services,” he said.

“As one of the industry’s largest purely open source software companies, Suse’s independence will benefit customers as the company builds on its heritage of technical excellence, value-driven partnerships and community engagement to deliver timely technology solutions to the market.”

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