Q&A: Infused with digitally native ideas, SUSE Group jump-starts computing transformations


When a digitally minded business is ready to play catch up, things can be expedited with the magic of open-source computing. The idea is to provide proper plug-ins across virtual walls and supporting the flurry of services now found on all major cloud platforms. For SUSE Group and Acumatica Inc., service providers in enterprise resource management, it’s all about choice and collaboration. The sister companies are bracing for a digital future, responding to customer needs to systematize and combine software applications.

“I think the younger generation of digital natives think a little bit differently perhaps than we were originally thinking when we were their age,” said Melissa Di Donato (pictured, right), chief executive officer of SUSE Group, when discussing digital transformation. “You know, I depend on that thinking. I depend on that integration of that thought leadership infused into companies to help really reach customers in different ways.”

Di Donato and Jon Roskill (pictured, left), chief executive officer of  Acumatica Inc., spoke with Dave Vellante (@dvellante) and Paul Gillin (@pgillin), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the IFS World Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. They discussed digital innovation and transformation, keeping customers at the core, and effective collaboration (see the full interview with transcript here). (* Disclosure below.)

[Editor’s note: The following answers have been condensed for clarity.]

Vellante: Help us understand Acumatica and IFS and the relationship. You’re like sister companies. You’re both the ERP providers. How do you work together?

Roskill: We’re both owned by a private equity firm called EQT. IFS is generally focused on $500 million and above companies, so more enterprise. We’re focused on core mid-market — so, say, $20 million to $500 million. [We’re] very complementary in that way. IFS is largely direct selling. We’re 100% through channels. IFS is stronger in Europe, we’re stronger in North America, and so they see these as very complementary assets.

Vellante: You guys had the power panel today, talking about digital transformation. What’s the difference between a business and a digital business?

Di Donato: Everyone’s digital these days, aren’t they? I was interviewing one of the leaders in Expedia, and I said, “Are you a travel company, or are you a digital company?” And she said to me, “We’re a travel company, but we use digital.” So it seems like the more and more we think about what the future means, how we service our customers, customers being at the core — everyone’s a digital business. The way you service, the way you communicate, the way you support. So whether you’re a (digital) business or not, you’re always going to be a digital business.

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Roskill: I’m going to take a slightly different take on that. We talk about digital and analog businesses, and analog businesses are ones that are data silos. They have a lot of systems, so they think they’re digital. But they’re disconnected. Part of a transformation is connecting all the systems together and getting them to work like one.

Vellante: In your panel today, you were talking a lot about digital transformations. What are the big mistakes you see companies making, and what’s your roadmap for success?

Di Donato: I think, doing too much too fast. Everyone talks about the digital innovation, digital transformation. It’s really a business transformation with digital being the underpinning, the push forward that carries the business forward. We make too many mistakes with regards to doing too much, too fast, too soon — doing and adopting technology for technology’s sake.

Really important at SUSE, we’re absolutely obsessed with our customers. Particularly with regards to digital transformation, you want to make sure that business outcome is focused on them. Having a clear roadmap with milestones along the journey is really important, ensuring it’s really collaborative.

Vellante: SUSE competes with the big whale Red Hat. How did [the IBM Acquisition of Red Hat] affect your business? 

Di Donato: We’ve seen a big uptake in interest in SUSE and what we’re doing. You know, they say that a big part of the install-based customers that RedHat and IBM currently have are unhappy about the decision to be acquired by IBM. A lot of the channel partners are not quite happy about having one of their closest competitors now be … part of the inner circle. And other customers are just not happy. RedHat had fast innovation, fast pace, and thought leadership. And now all of a sudden they’re going to be buried inside of a large conglomerate, and they’re not happy about that. 

So when we look at what’s been happening for us, particularly since March, we became an independent company — now one of the world’s largest, independent, open-source companies in the world since IBM has been taking over from Red Hat. So it’s been really good news for us. 

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Gillin: What is involved in customers moving from Red Hat to SUSE? Presumably, you’re doing some of those migrations.

Di Donato: We are doing them more and more in fact. We’re even offering migration services ourselves in some applications. It depends on the application layer. We’ve got some telco companies — very complex, 24/7, high pace, big, fat enterprise applications around billing, for example. They’re harder to move. They need constant operation because it’s billing, right? Big, fat transactions; those are a little bit more complex than the other applications are. 

Nonetheless, there is a migration path. In fact, we’re one of the only open-source companies in the world that provides support for not just SUSE, but actually for Red Hat. So, if you’re a Red Hat customer that wants to get off an unsupported version of Red Hat, you can come over to SUSE. We’ll not just support your Red Hat system, but actually come up with a migration plan to get you into a supported version of SUSE.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the IFS World Conference. (* Disclosure: IFS AB sponsored this segment of theCUBE. Neither IFS nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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