SUSE names Melissa Di Donato new CEO

Former SAP COO moves to the top job at SUSE, the oldest Linux business and more recently an open-source cloud power.

SAP: A look at its challenges, opportunities ZDNet's Larry Dignan caught up with Vinnie Mirchandani, author of SAP Nation 3.0, to talk about the enterprise software landscape and the evolution of one of enterprise software's largest vendors.

SUSE and SAP have been close partners for 20 years. Indeed, SUSE's single biggest customer is SAP. So, it comes as no surprise that Melissa Di Donato, SAP's former COO, has just been named SUSE'S CEO. 

London-based Di Donato is a well-known technology leader. In particular, she has a proven track record in sales and business operations. Besides being SAP's COO, she was also the company's chief revenue officer. In SAP's latest quarter, SAP saw an increase of 11% year-over-year revenues. Much of that came from the cloud -- where SAP saw 40% year-over-year growth. SAP's cloud is built on SUSE's Linux servers and OpenStack cloud. 

In a statement, Di Donato said:

"There is no greater honor than to lead SUSE into its next chapter of accelerated growth and corporate development. SUSE is at the cusp of a historic shift as open-source software is now a critical part of any thriving enterprise's core business strategy."

Although the IBM-Red Hat acquisition has seen the most attention, Di Donato optimistically stated:

"We are well-positioned to emerge as the clear leader of this shift, with our ability to power digital transformation for our customers at their own pace and with agile, enterprise-grade open-source solutions, edge to core to cloud. What is unmistakable is our unlimited ability to deliver value to our community, customers, partners, and shareholders -- all of whom have been the bedrock of SUSE's success. As exciting as SUSE's growth and innovation have been over the past several years, we are just getting started."

Di Donato succeeds Nils Brauckmann. While officially Brauckmann is retiring, there seems to be more to the story. On LinkedIn, Brauckmann wrote: 

"I care very deeply for the SUSE business and its employees, and this difficult decision is based entirely on personal reasons. I am pleased to be handing over the reins to such a talented and accomplished leader as Melissa Di Donato." 

In his SUSE statement, Brauckman added: 

"She is a proven and dynamic change agent, and many of her achievements have occurred in subscription businesses that exist in high-growth cloud environments."

Since SUSE's generally hands-off owner EQT demands growth above all, perhaps EQT felt Di Donato was a better choice to move SUSE forward in an increasingly competitive Linux-based cloud market. 

During his tenure, Brauckmann delivered eight years of continuous expansion, including record-breaking revenues in FY18. He also oversaw SUSE's return to being an independent Linux company.

Jonas Persson, chairman of SUSE's Board and EQT advisor, recognized Brauchmann's accomplishments, as well: 

"Nils has successfully led the company to what it is today, and he hands over the business in good shape, with 2018 in many ways marking a top year in the company's history."

Under Di Donato's leadership, SUSE will continue to focus on growth and expansion. What that means is she's expected to advance SUSE's core business and emerging technologies, both organically and through add-on acquisitions. According to SUSE, "SUSE's independence will continue to be aligned with a single-minded focus on delivering what is best for customers and partners, coupled with full control over its own destiny."

Di Donato will be SUSE's first female CEO. She takes charge of SUSE on Aug. 5.

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