If you are surprised after reading that headline, you are not alone. This is big industry news, and I personally think there will be a couple of mixed feelings about this one. Similar to the IBM/Red Hat acquisition, people all over are wondering what they can expect from this change.
Let’s unpack the story together to get some more context. Rancher Labs is a container-focused software company that started out providing Cattle, their own container orchestration engine. Like many other container companies, once Kubernetes won the container orchestration race, Rancher Labs switched over to the technology and are now a fully Kubernetes-based platform. They also don’t only look after their own RKE (Rancher Kubernetes Engine) but manage others too like EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service) and AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service). Providing a single management platform for all your Kubernetes clusters has been one of their main selling points, even going a step further by making a slimmed-down version called K3s which runs in low resource edge locations like branches or IoT devices.
SUSE has been in the open-source game for a long time, providing a Linux distribution called SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server) used across the world by large enterprises. SUSE’s main focus and expansion have been in the SAP arena, where they have become the first name on the list of OSs that will power your SAP environment. They specialise in management, Openstack, storage and also tried their hand at their own container platform called CaaS (Container as a Service). Honestly, I think this was hit-and-miss and I don’t know how many companies adopted this platform, which leads me straight into why this particular acquisition happened.
This is a good partnership that makes sense on so many levels.
SUSE has been going for many years and changed ownership a few times themselves, but they are now independent and not bound by other business owner decisions, which I feel have been holding them back for many years.
From a Rancher point of view, they needed to scale, they are (according to Rancher) the most used self-hosted container platform in the world and I think getting the full version for free goes a long way in establishing a strong user-base. They are also winning some big enterprises over and becoming a big name in the large enterprise space. To continue this growth, they need to have relationships at the right levels, be able to scale to the demand of supporting these large customers and grow staff fast enough to take on the market while it’s hot for them. Rancher Labs I feel could have joined forces with quite a few large vendors, but I think (and have no insight into this, just my own thoughts) the Rancher Labs and SUSE leadership team feel that they have overlapping views and outlooks on where they want their business to go. They probably also feel they both have some common enemies and are stronger together.
So how does this all fall into the LSD Cloud-native story?
Well, it’s all very relevant as we need to look at the whole picture when it comes to cloud-native and not just containers. SUSE has the “traditional” stack including the OS, management platform in SUSE Manager which also does their DevOps solution, storage and more.
When we talk about Cloud-native, it’s about getting your business ready to scale using cloud type technologies. It doesn’t mean you must run your workloads in the cloud, just in a cloud-friendly way. So what does that mean? It means that you don’t want applications that are large and cumbersome. It doesn’t have to be a microservice, but we do want it to be able to scale horizontally, deployed using automation, testing done automatically, and be able to move between environments without having to move the world to get it done.
This is why the cloud-native story for LSD always starts in your own data centre. Lets first get a container platform in your DC, start moving applications to containers in the DC, get them to auto-scale, auto-heal, deployed automatically, tested and version controlled. Once that is all in place, then we start looking at the Cloud and which applications can run there. Its a trip, and we want to take the journey with you.
As we have discovered so often, the tool is just a tool, and there are other things to think about long before you decide on a tool.
I look forward to seeing what SUSE and Rancher are going to come up with together.
From SUSE’s point of view, they have tried to get their own container platform out, with minimal success as far as I can see. They feel, like so many smart people that know this sort of thing, that containers are the way to go and everything is going that route. OSs and VM growth will slow to a crawl, and containers are moving upwards and onwards very quickly. SUSE probably also feel that they can go to their existing relationships and drop in Rancher quickly and successfully and I don’t think they are wrong in that.