How SUSE “Invented” Enterprise Linux
By Michael Jores, SUSE
Happy 25th Anniversary Linux from SUSE! For 24 years now, the green chameleon has been engaged in Linux development.
Recently somebody asked me: “Since when is Linux actually mainstream?” That’s a good question. Perhaps since 2011, I answered, when SAP HANA was launched exclusively on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server? Or maybe 2000, when SUSE and IBM released the first instance of Linux on the mainframe?
After all we are also celebrating 16 years of Linux in the enterprise: Today Linux is THE operating system in the data centre. Windows is still prominent, but Linux is growing faster. Unix has long ago been outperformed – in all areas from manageability to performance.
SUSE and SAP in the Linux Lab
It started in 1998 with the first adaptations of Linux from Oracle and SAP which got the ball rolling. Could Linux take off in the enterprise? Well the idea was certainly catching on. One year later I started working at SUSE. Linux distributions from SUSE go back to 1992, but then it was time to bring Linux into the data centre for real. In 1999 we formed the first alliances with IBM, SAP and Oracle. The same year SUSE became an original member of the SAP Linux Lab – other Linux distributors joined and left. SUSE and SAP worked closely together throughout that time – becoming a big success.
But it wasn’t only SAP which realised the potential of Linux: with support from SUSE, a year later IBM released Linux on the mainframe. It was only a short trip between Nuremberg and IBM in Boeblingen and the two companies got along very well. Linus Torvalds also approved – he saw the clear advantage, of developing Linux interfaces for the mainframe and to permanently maintain them. In 2000, the joint development with IBM resulted in the first Enterprise Linux ever: SUSE Linux Enterprise. The next milestone came in the mid-2000s, in the shape of an alliance with Microsoft.
Customers were surprised
SUSE had already won major enterprise customers, they all were standardizing their data centres. Fast-forward to 2006, and SUSE and Microsoft announced their cooperation. We wanted to help customers to move away from proprietary hardware and to clear the way for standard hardware. The destination was x86, and there were only two operating systems – Windows and Linux. When we turned up together with Microsoft for our first joint customer meeting, that was one of my favorite moments with SUSE. I will never forget the astonishment on the customers’ faces. But it was a very efficient partnership for our customers and to-date SUSE and Microsoft work very closely together to deliver value to our customers.
Why was SUSE the first Enterprise Linux?
There are two answers. On the one hand we were always interested in Linux for the enterprise. Since the late 90s SUSE had consulting teams on-site with large customers. We knew exactly where the shoe pinched. On the other hand SUSE was able to combine the fast development and high-volume innovation of open source with a rock-solid enterprise perspective for our customers. And we were the first to bridge the gap between support and innovation.
Today the Linux development model is standard. Open source projects like OpenStack demonstrate that customers value freedom of choice and the security of a future development that only a large community can ensure. I’m very proud of all those accomplishments – and looking back on our joint successes, it’s safe to say that the efforts of the last 16 years were absolutely worthwhile.