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Attachmate's Brauckmann takes control of SUSE Linux

Nuremberg eyes 'growing Linux market' hungrily

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Legacy software lover Attachmate has put one of its own long-time executives in charge of what was formerly Novell's SUSE Linux operation and will focus that unit on serving Linux customers and growing Linux business.

Attachmate has tapped Nils Brauckman, formerly vice president of sales and marketing for the company's EMEA region, to be president and general manager of the SUSE business unit. Markus Rex, who was a vice president of engineering at the original SUSE Linux AG back in the late 1990s and who became the company's chief technology officer and eventually was general manager of Novell's Open Platform Solutions group, which included the SUSE Linux and related businesses, left Novell as it was being acquired by Attachmate; Brauckmann did not know what Rex's employment plans were.

Brauckmann was vice president of sales and marketing for EMEA at Attachmate's rival for host connectivity and application modernization software, WRQ, back in the day. Brauckmann has been at the WRQ or Attachmate for the past 16 years, in various sales and marketing jobs, including managing the Infoconnect and Versastream tools for app modernization and the NetIQ security and ID management tools sold by Attachmate.

WRQ is the seed of the Attachmate business that eventually acquired Novell last November for $2.2bn (a little more than $700m net of cash). That deal, which included a controversial asset sale by Attachmate to a holding company controlled by Microsoft, Apple, EMC, and Oracle, was finally completed at the end of April after passing muster with German and US regulators after the asset sale terms were tweaked.

Private equity firms Francisco Partners and Thoma Bravo bought WRQ for an undisclosed amount in December 2004. In April 2005, Golden Gate Capital joined up and the three equity firms ganged up to buy WRQ's main rival, Attachmate, creating a company with around $200m in revenues. In May 2006, three equity firms ponied up $495m to buy publicly traded NetIQ, which itself was an agglomeration of companies to build out its portfolio of system management and security tools. When NetIQ was added to Attachmate five years ago, the resulting company had over 40,000 customers, 16 million users, and around $400m in annual revenues.

It is not clear how large Attachmate was as the Novell deal went down, but Novell by itself was at an $800m to $850m run rate, with its Linux products generating somewhere around $160m a year, depending on how you cut the Open Enterprise Server Linux-NetWare hybrid. Novell, you will remember, shelled out $210m in November 2003 to save its business, which was heavily dependent on NetWare and GroupWare, from oblivion. Since that time, Novell had been able to quadruple SUSE Linux revenues, but rival Red Hat has been able to stay about a factor of five times as large through its own expansion into middleware and through the popularity of its Enterprise Linux stack. Now that it has eaten Novell, Attachmate has over 65,000 customers and is probably a bit larger than Red Hat in terms of revenue stream. Red Hat is set to break the $1bn mark this year.

What matters now, Brauckmann tells El Reg, is that the SUSE business has been set free of Novell and Attachmate is committed to having the SUSE division innovate in the open source arena and create products that customers will pay to support in enterprise environments. The Mono team which has created an open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET runtime environment, was laid off by Attachmate several weeks ago. Brauckmann confirms that SUSE is no longer investing in the project, but quickly added that SUSE would be supporting any commercial customers using Mono that have support contracts.

"The rest of the SUSE roadmap stays intact," Brauckmann says. "No other products will be changed."

And perhaps more importantly, Brauckman says that the SUSE business unit has no plans to change the packing and pricing for its various incarnations of SUSE Linux, the SUSE Studio development tool, or the SUSE Manager provisioning and patching tool.

By the way, Open Enterprise Server, which is a set of NetWare services running on top of a SUSE Linux kernel, is over on the Novell side of Attachmate, along with NetWare, GroupWise, and various directory and identity management tools.

Attachmate is not disclosing the final headcount of the SUSE business, but Brauckmann says that not including the Mono team that was let go and some back office functions that will be eliminated, the majority of the sales, engineering, and support people who worked for the Open Platform Solutions group at Novell have made the jump to the new SUSE unit. The headquarters for SUSE is also being moved back to Nuremburg, Germany, where SUSE got its start, although the business unit will have development labs in Provo, Utah; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Other smaller development labs will continue to operate all over the globe where Novell had SUSE-related employees. Tech support for SUSE products will continue to be run out of the Provo, Utah and Prague, Czech Republic facilities.

SUSE's executive team will be global as well. Michael Miller has been named vice president of global alliances, marketing, and product management for SUSE and will work out of the Seattle Attachmate home office. Ralf Flaxa is the vice president of engineering and will handle those responsibilities from Nuremburg. Ronald de Jong is a vice president handling EMEA sales out of the Netherlands and Terri Hall will handle North American sales from California.

The real question on the minds of both Attachmate executives and SUSE Linux customers is simple: Can the SUSE business grow as Novell had hoped now that it is not encumbered by Novell?

"It is a great operating system, and I am confident that the business can grow," says Brauckmann. Of course, we all know he has to say that, and it is nonetheless true if Brauckmann and the rest of the SUSE top brass believe it – and Attachmate gives them the resources to make it happen. "The Linux market is growing, and we will get our piece of that growth. In fact, my goal is to outperform Linux market growth." ®

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