Before HPE spun out its software assets in a deal with Micro Focus, the UK-based business was best known for its soup-to-nuts support of COBOL. What most people missed is the deal also made HPE the first major, old-school technology company to give preference to Linux distributor SUSE.
With Canonical Ubuntu, the top cloud Linux, and Red Hat, the leading server Linux, SUSE, which is also a major enterprise Linux player and a powerhouse in mainframe Linux, is one of the three biggest Linux powers.
Micro Focus obtained SUSE Linux as part of its Attachmate deal in 2014. Prior to that, Attachmate acquired SUSE and its then-parent company Novell in 2011.
Historically, major computer companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, use the Linux distributors' Linux. They don't roll their own Linux. The one exception, and it's a minor one, is Oracle cloning Red Hat Enterprise Linux with its Oracle Enterprise Linux.
HPE's "spin-merge" of its non-core software assets with Micro Focus seemed, at first glance, to be more about repositioning its software programs to work better in an increasing cloud and software-defined network and storage stack world. Here's how the HPE-Micro Focus deal works in two slides.
Could it also be that HPE wants a house-blend Linux to better serve its long-term hardware infrastructure and cloud goals? It seems likely to me.
Officially, HPE announced that SUSE will be HPE's preferred Linux partner. In addition, HPE will leverage SUSE's OpenStack expertise in its private Helion OpenStack and Stackato Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions.
Even before this deal, SUSE has been performing better in the marketplace. SUSE revenue in the last fiscal year grew more than 18 percent, and the employee base grew 23 percent, primarily in areas dedicated to development, customer care, and sales and marketing.
SUSE and HPE are still hammering out the fine details of how they'll work together. They expect this to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2016. The two companies have a long history of working together on Linux.
More recently, SUSE and HPE started work on a vertical hardware/software storage stack. This Linux-based package combines SUSE's Ceph-based SUSE Enterprise Storage 3 with HPE's storage-optimized Apollo servers and HPE general-purpose ProLiant servers.
Looking ahead, SUSE and HPE will be working hand in glove. If the deal works out well for both companies, I foresee serious acquisition offers heading Canonical and Red Hat's way.