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Any Linux you like, as long as it's green

What makes SUSE's partner programme different?

Mark Salter, SUSE

If you’re an enterprise, which flavour of Linux to use?

The products are all quite similar, says Mark Salter, global VP channel sales at SUSE, and this being open source, any differentiator will only ‘last five minutes’.

He says what’s different about SUSE is its close relationship with fellow German company SAP, proved by the 95% of all HANA implementations that are running on SUSE Linux.

Salter was in South Africa for a partner event at the Micro Focus offices in Johannesburg, and the small auditorium was full of people interested in open source, and specifically SUSE.

SUSE is a brand within Micro Focus, and has a completely separate management organisation. Salter says Micro Focus looks for mature software which it invests in and supports. Investment in SUSE is running ’50 or 60% ahead of our growth’, which enabled it to make acquisitions.

“This means our customers are getting better software to work with all the time and our growth will catch up with that as time progresses.”

Micro Focus is also finalising the purchase of the software business of HPE, agreeing to pay $2.5 billion as part of the sale.

This will be complete in September, and will make Micro Focus the second largest software vendor in Europe - behind SAP - and about the eighth in the world, Salter tells the Margin.

Another differentiator with SUSE, according to Salter, is its ‘customer-centric’ partner programme, which is purely based on the partner’s skills, and not by how much they sell.

SUSE certifies individuals and accredits partner organisations in any of its four product lines: Linux server, server manager, open stack cloud, and software-defined enterprise storage.

This week also sees the announcement of a fifth product: container-as-a-service, which will be officially launched at the company’s convention in September.

When a company receives a SUSE certification, it will receive 30 free technical support calls every year, and will be included in SUSE’s global network of partners. The company will also receive a 10% rebate on any deal it wins, in addition to any margin it was making.

The only other ‘step up’ in the programme is what it terms a ‘solution partner’, who is expected to have higher level skills, and more employees. These partners get a 30% rebate, and 60 free calls to technical support.

SUSE has about 500 partner organisations worldwide.

SUSE also doesn’t do renewals itself, and while it has a renewals sales team, its job is to make sure the renewals happen through the partner. Marketing activities are also planned with partners.

“Whenever a customer wants to talk to a vendor, we take that customer to a partner with that skill, for instance, a product in a particular geography. Then we’ll handhold the partner and customer to make sure it’s good marriage, and let them work together.”

Ahead of the curve

Salter says there’s been particular interest in software-defined storage in South Africa.

“You seem to be ahead of the curve in the number of people - and the interest - in using this sort of technology, because it saves money. We’re finding in developing economies, the whole business of open source, the ability to reuse and repurpose existing environments, has significant resonance.”

India, too, had seen massive growth in the use of SUSE products.

“The number of people India is training in technology is phenomenal. They’re taking over the world, and they embrace open source,” says Salter.

“The message of an Indian system integrator (SI) is ‘we can do the same job as your traditional SI, for a lot lower cost’."

By its nature, open source is effective in lower-cost environments, and cloud helps it to be even lower cost, he says.

“South Africa is faster at investing and utilising technology than people ever realise. Fifteen years ago I was here with Sun Microsystems, and we did a deal with Telkom and Absa to enable instant trading settlements over the web. We were doing three-day settlements in Europe, and you go from one day to instant using the clearing system, and the telecommunication company and ADSL lines, in those days. You just didn’t call it the cloud, but that was a cloud-based environment.”

Salter says that partners had to embrace cloud, and they were undergoing a transformation ‘from being a solutions partner to a services partner that delivers a solution’. Smaller players would need to partner with a major cloud provider, and deliver a complete solution over the web.

“The whole world is going to the cloud. The SME is going invest in cloud much faster than the corporates.”

“The integrity of the channel is fundamental to us, and partners make money out of the cloud. If you don’t do that, you’re going to find your company having less and less relevance in the marketplace.”

Salter says anyone is welcome to be a SUSE partner, for no cost.

“Once one person is certified technically, and one person on the sales side, you get the accredited partner benefits. And there’s no limit to that. We all have limited resources, so we’ll invest in those people that we believe have a growth opportunity with us, and where their ethos, philosophy and focus meet ours.”

Specifically, SUSE saw markets of growth around governments, as well as SAP, cloud and disaster recovery.

“The more a partner invests in us, the more we’ll help you in your business.”

And what’s with the Gecko?

“We adapt, you succeed,” he says.

“We can change our colour, but we’re always green.”

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