Consumability, it’s an odd word that I like to toss around in regard to SUSE offerings in the market. Given that it’s not well defined, I thought I’d try to help you understand what I mean when I say it.
Rather than being some narrowly defined term, I believe that the phrase consumability encompasses a number of ideas and themes, especially when used in context of enterprise customers. These themes include the ability to easily implement, manage, and receive support. I’ll dive into each of these a bit and give some examples of how it is done by SUSE today.
When it comes to implementation, it’s important to understand the genesis of many open source projects. They are started as an idea to scratch an itch that the developer has. Consequently, when it is good enough for their purpose, many developers will set it aside to go on to other things. I know that I am also guilty of doing this with scripts that I use regularly. The problem is that this represents only about 80% of the distance to being a tool that is easy to deploy, use, and support. Now, I know I’ll probably warm up some haters here, but simple implementation != git clone and then fiddling around with config files. When it comes to enterprise businesses, they expect to be able to insert the media, click setup, answer a few questions and then have the application installed and working for their environment.
This is where packages come in and help with the Linux crowd. However, zypper in mypackagename, may not be intuitive enough for some customers and still doesn’t address the configuration of the packages. That’s where a single interface for system work comes in.
For SUSE, this single management interface is YaST. With labels that aren’t cryptic for the functions provided and also being the one place that most all of your system administration can happen, this is about as easy as things get for managing a single system’s software load. There are both text and graphical versions, thus meeting the needs of different sets of users and making it easy to implement new functionality.
While YaST is great for a single server environment, it’s definitely not the cat’s meow for doing things at a large scale. When I think large scale, that’s where projects like OpenStack and Ceph come to mind. These distributed environments can have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of nodes. Now, while YaST is a great tool, it’s not so great when you have 1000 systems to deploy.
This is where SUSE strikes again for the win. Whether we’re talking about your data center, your retail environment, your private cloud, or distributed storage, SUSE has engineered a solution that makes it easy to roll it out. For the data center and retail environments, we’ve got SUSE Manager, and it does quite a bit more than just deployment. For distributed environments, we focus on how easy can we make it by balancing flexibility with, you guessed it, consumability.
This is also where SUSE brings the heat for OpenStack and Ceph customers. If I told you that it’s possible to deploy a 5 PB, 100+ open-source distributed storage cluster in under two hours, would you believe me? You should! SUSE has done just this for a large customer in Europe. And for OpenStack, just search for the results for the Rule The Stack competition. SUSE employees dominated this because we have a heavy focus on making it easy to implement.
What about operational manageability? Well, I’ve already talked a bit about our management product for Linux datacenters, SUSE Manager. But outside of SUSE Manager, we have also included manageability in our individual products. Again, YaST plays a role here, but we have done other things as well. Take SUSE Enterprise Storage for example. We brought the OpenATTIC project and people to SUSE over a year ago and kicked in the afterburners. Since then, OpenATTIC has morphed into the best of breed open-source management interface for Ceph. You can see some screenshots here.
The last aspect is supportability. SUSE has always excelled here with the highest customer satisfaction among commercial Linux vendors, but this goes beyond just our support people and encompasses the ability for an enterprise to roll SUSE into their support process and be able to provide an environment that is easy to add users to, modify or day to day administration, and provide information to SUSE support when something goes wrong. The SUSE Customer Center and our supportconfig tool help round out this part of the equation.
SUSE partners are also part of the equation here. The SUSE partner ecosystem is one where we work hard to educate our partners on how to implement and support SUSE products. We look for opportunities to integrate our products tightly and test them together. And most importantly, we provide escalation paths appropriate to the partner business model. This helps create the most supportable environments possible for our joint customers.
Supportability also includes thinking about the future and scaling. This requires looking at the software architecturally to make sure it is solid. It requires evaluating the community around the software and the maturity and leadership offered there. It requires gazing into the crystal ball and thinking about the future and if the software solves a long-term problem or not.
So, in summary, consumability is really looking at the big picture and trying to cover all the bases. It’s about ensuring a positive experience and the goal of taking open-source to that 100% complete mark. It’s a mentality, a way of thinking that takes a customer first mentality in product development and support. So the net is, it’s the SUSE way.