The new SUSE business unit of Attachmate came out with PR-asers on full power Wednesday, as new President and General Manager Nils Brauckmann made the rounds of interviews in conjunction with the announcement of the new unit.
I decided to join the media frenzy and took up the invitation to meet the new leader of SUSE and perhaps get some answers about the status of some of the old Novell open source projects.
Brauckmann pushed the Linux focus (which will be "like a laser," he said) of SUSE strongly and consistently throughout our discussion earlier this week, a theme I noted that he emphasized with other journalists.
"We understand the importance of the open source and FOSS community," Brauckmann said, adding he acknowledges the concerns people will have regarding Attachmate's relationship with that community, but that their commitment to open source remains strong. But I got the sense that this relationship wasn't going to be a fawning love affair with open source, either.
"There will be an understanding [that] there will be mutual respect between us," Brauckmann added. SUSE will still continue to provide funding and manpower to the openSUSE Project.
In some respects, the Attachmate line is what one should expect. In order to keep the existing SUSE Enterprise Linux Server customer base reassured, the new SUSE business unit has to hammer home the idea that nothing radical is about to happen to the product or the level of service.
"We are focusing on continuity," Brauckmann stated. All of SUSE's efforts--whether it be with existing partners like VMware, SAP, and Microsoft; or independent software vendors; or the FOSS community--will be maintained, "with an increased focus on the SUSE brand."
It wasn't all about continuity, though. There was some looking ahead, too.
"We must ask ourselves, 'where do you innovate next?'," Brauckmann explained. "We want to innovate in areas that matter to our customers. We will not innovate for the sake of innovation, or just because something is cool."
Was this the reason, I asked, that Attachmate laid off the Mono development team in the US?
"It was partly the reason," Brauckmann said after a brief pause. "But I should say that Mono was more than 'just cool.' It is a valuable project, and our customers were using it. But we looked at the investment we were making in Mono and compared it to customer demand. What we did was align those investments with the customer demand, which as you know unfortunately ended with some people being let go."
Since we were now on the topic of the open source projects Novell supported before the Attachmate acquisition, I asked about LibreOffice and its status in the new SUSE business.
"At this point in time, we will continue to work with existing product roadmaps," Brauckmann replied. "I can honestly say at this time there is no plan internally to move away from the SUSE Linux desktop."
Presumably because LibreOffice is a big part of that desktop commitment, we should continue to see SUSE involvement in LibreOffice and the Document Foundation.
And what about SUSE Studio, the virtual appliance program Novell launched that is a bit of an unsung hero in the SUSE product family? Here, Brauckmann took more of a wait-and-see approach.
"SUSE Studio is still pretty new to our business," Brauckmann answered. "It's still too new to figure out customer demand in the long term." Because of this, Brauckmann emphasized that SUSE and Attachmate are willing to keep investing in the appliance project to see if it will grow in the marketplace.
Brauckmann's message was consistent: the business moving forward will be all about SUSE, the brand and the product. It just remains to be seen what SUSE will define as being a part of that new vision.