New Podcast: What a long strange trip it's been – Linux on System z. Interview with Joerg Eberwein
As employee number 135 at SUSE (bought by Novell in 2004), Joerg Eberwein has seen it all. With a small team of engineers and partners—numbering around 10 in the early days—they were able to rely on innovation, teamwork and each other to create a product that has been around a decade.
But it wasn’t without its bumps in the early days. Eberwein was faced with changing the way companies looked at enterprise computing. By trying to put Linux – a project originally created by one person but at that time already supported by a huge community spreaded all over the globe – on mainframes, the entire SUSE Linux Enterprise team faced an uphill battle.
The challenges included (and still often include) discussions about cost, scalability and reliability. Eberwein said it comes down to having the right partners, the right product and the belief in both. To that end, Eberwein talks about working with IBM and how great they’ve been over the years. He said that working with great partners is like being in a dream, and it’s extremely motivating.
With the power of IBM behind them, the early SUSE Linux Enterprise team started to feel as if everything they touched would work out.
“We saw the chance and we took it,” said Eberwein. “We started to spread the message of Linux on the mainframe.”
To get potential customers interested in Linux for the mainframe before the official release of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for S/390, IBM and SUSE held a two-week long install party. Because participants could not bring mainframes to the facility where the install party was being held, conference calls were used to walk interested companies through the installation steps. Many of the customers that participated in the initial install party are still loyal SUSE Linux Enterprise customers today.
By installing the first Linux code on these corporate customer machines, even Eberwein saw that this operating system was moving away from the end-user world and into the realm of enterprises.
Further, the turnout and response validated his hard work and proved there was increasing demand. While others might have thought the task impossible, the entire team was touting the benefits of putting SUSE Linux Enterprise Server into business settings.
The cost savings, workload capability and ease of use made sales easier and easier over time. And it was a self-perpetuating situation. The more demand and requests they got, the more they realized they had a winning product on their hands.
Now it’s been 10 years and Eberwein looks back. He’s been able to shatter the myth that mainframes are too expensive and has been continuing to garner customer interest in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z.
What it comes down to is working with the right partners and having a great product. And having both sides work toward a common goal of continuing to make SUSE Linux Enterprise grow for another 10 years.
“Without our partners, we wouldn’t be where we are,” said Eberwein.
Without Joerg Eberwein and a team that believed since the very start in its enterprise-ready Linux for the mainframe, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z might not be here at all.
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