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How SuSE Carries Its Big Stick

Laying out SuSE's business plan

  • February 5, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

Theodore Roosevelt had a unique perspective on foreign relations. At the turn of the last century, he dictated that the U.S. "should walk softly, and carry a big stick" when dealing with international affairs. He had a specific stick in mind, too: a massive rebuild of the U.S. Naval fleet.

This plan had some interesting subtleties, though on the surface it seemed rather brash. From 1907-1909, a flotilla of U.S. warships toured the world on goodwill visits to various nations. The message was very clear: the Americans were taking their place on the world stage.

The methods Roosevelt employed are certainly applicable today in the computing arena, as many companies try to subtly (or not so subtly) position themselves into place in the technology community. One player in the Linux community who seems to be emulating Roosevelt's technique pretty well is none other than SuSE Linux AG.

SuSE's position in the Linux market is one of contrasts. In the European, Middle East, and African markets, SuSE Linux not only dominates the Linux categories, but also the general software categories as well. But in the U.S., it ranks behind other Linux distributions, which all in turn rank behind Microsoft Windows.

But SuSE is making fast inroads into the U.S. customer base, having adapted its usual sales methods to what its executives consistently label as the "marketing-driven American consumers."

Dirk Hohndel, Chief Technology Officer, is all too aware of these inconsistencies, and is fully prepared to make SuSE a market leader worldwide. His commitment shows as he sat down for an interview not long after arriving in LinuxWorld New York less than 24 hours after giving a keynote address at the Linux Expo Paris 2001.

The setting for the interview reflects a bit of the change SuSE is taking in addressing the U.S. market. Gone is the six-foot tall gecko walking around handing out chachkis. In its place is a huge new technology display and demo area, with a conference room tucked away in the middle.

But beyond the trappings of the new corporate focus is Hohndel's firm view of the direction SuSE is going.

There are two main thrusts the SuSE pursues in its business. One is the obvious software side of the business, with SuSE Linux at the heart. The other half of the equation is the now equally obvious services side of the business. There is no real surprise here, either, since most of the Linux companies base at least some measure of their revenue model on services such as consulting, training, and support.

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