Should Red Hat be afraid of SUSE's Rancher acquisition?

SUSE wants Red Hat and the rest of the Kubernetes world to know, that it means to be a container orchestration power.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

SUSE, a major Linux and cloud company, finalized its acquisition of Rancher Labs earlier this year.. Rancher, formerly a privately held open-source company, had over 37,000 active users and 100-million downloads of its flagship Kubernetes management program, Rancher

SUSE is putting Red Hat and other Kubernetes powerhouse companies on notice that they mean to be a Kubernetes giant as well. 

Why? Because the Rancher program is a market-leading complete Kubernetes software stack. This stack can handle the operational and security challenges of managing multiple Kubernetes clusters across almost any infrastructure. Specifically, it supports any Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)-certified Kubernetes distribution. This includes Google GKE, Amazon EKS, and Microsoft AKS.

The Rancher stack also enables companies to manage Kubernetes clusters across hybrid-clouds with centralized authentication, access control, and monitoring. With it, you can easily deploy Kubernetes clusters on bare metal, private clouds, public clouds, or VMware vSphere and secure them using global security policies. It uses Kubernetes's native Helm, or its own app catalog, to deploy and manage applications across these environments. This enables you to maintain multi-cloud cluster consistency with a single deployment.

This is all being done with a pure open-source stack, as SUSE remains committed to delivering 100% open-source technologies. Rancher, which will continue to run as its own entity, will  support multiple Kubernetes distributions and operating systems.

Melissa Di Donato, SUSE CEO

SUSE CEO Melissa Di Donato

SUSE's acquisition is part of a Kubernetes merger and acquisition trend. "The Kubernetes marketplace saw significant consolidation in 2019 with the acquisitions of Heptio and Pivotal by VMware, and Red Hat by IBM," said Sheng Liang, former Rancher CEO and, now SUSE's president of engineering and innovation. With this approximately $700 million acquisition, SUSE isn't just staying in the game, it's raising the stakes. "I knew SUSE was the right company for us because of our shared ethos, viewpoint and philosophy of open source driving value to business leaders," Liang added.

In a blog posting, SUSE CEO Melissa Di Donato said: "This is a union that brings together the best in Kubernetes management, Linux and Edge computing to address the needs of all customers seeking to grow their business and out-innovate their competition." 

In a remark pointed at Red Hat, Di Donato added: "In 1994, SUSE forever changed the course of business innovation by introducing enterprise-grade Linux. And today, with Rancher, we offer the industry's only adaptable Linux operating system, interoperable Kubernetes Management platform, and innovative Edge solutions."

At least some of SUSE and Rancher's partners agree with this aggressive stance. "Some open-source companies are more open than others,  said Frank Strecker, T-Systems' SVP of public cloud managed services and big data. "In my experience, SUSE and Rancher are willing and able to work to deploy and service technology solutions that are truly designed to meet the needs of our business and that is incredibly refreshing." 

Jason Daniels, Fujitsu's CTO of the Law & Order Portfolio, added,  "We need to innovate in the data center and the cloud, and in order to be agile, we cannot commit to a single, heavy vertical stack. Only SUSE and Rancher deliver a truly open approach to open-source software that can respond to the ever-evolving, digital needs of the UK citizen in a rapid and consistent way."

The war for Kubernetes domination is heating up as Kubernetes becomes ever more important in our cloud and container driven IT world.

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