SUSE plots edgier Kubernetes with Linux behind the wheel

Just don't mention the cow-meleon, OK?

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Interview SUSE has had a busy year, with a switch of CEO, the ditching of OpenStack, and the buy of Kubernetes darling Rancher Labs.

The Register spoke to the veteran Linux flinger's president of Engineering and Innovation, Thomas Di Giacomo, and CTO and openSUSE chair Gerald Pfeifer, about cars, Kubernetes, open source and life free from the clutches of its previous owner.

Last month's Rancher Labs slurp highlighted the freedom SUSE now enjoys after it was jettisoned from Micro Focus in 2018.

"We didn't have the capacity to do what we've just done with Rancher," said Di Giacomo, "that's not something we could have done in the past."

The company also famously killed off development of its OpenStack Cloud product last year in a dash toward Kubernetes and the DevOps world.

As such, the rationale for the Rancher Labs purchase didn't raise many eyebrows, although the financial terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed. We won't find out what SUSE plans to do with its new plaything until the ink dries.

Di Giacomo noted SUSE's current SUSE Manager product, a management tool aimed at dealing with Linux systems over a variety of architectures, including containers, IoT and cloud platforms and added: "Rancher is a great example of that."

Praising SUSE's acquisition as "the leading multi cloud container management platform," Di Giacomo also claimed many customers had yet to fully embrace the concept of multi-cloud, opting for a hybrid approach or using different clouds for different purposes rather than managing them "as a single landscape."

Pfeifer was also coy when it came to Rancher, telling us: "We have people in openSUSE who tremendously care about the same or similar technologies that Rancher brings, like openSUSE Kubic for example."

Based on MicroOS, Kubic is all about the deployment, scaling and management of containerised platforms. "My expectation," added Pfeifer, "is we'll adopt with open arms the Rancher technologies into different distributions."

Rancher additionally has a nifty K3s lightweight Kubernetes distribution; handy for edge devices. It will show up in the next version of SUSE's platform, according to Di Giacomo.

Here in my car I feel safest of all

As for the other Big Thing this year (certainly as far Di Giacomo's Kubecon keynote was concerned), SUSE is shunting more of Kubernetes to Edge environments, such as automobiles.

"Cloud native is Edge native," he told those viewing his KubeCon stream.

"You can't run everything [in] the cloud," he told us, pointing out the latency inherent in edge applications thanks to the variability of the likes of mobile data that has made things less than ideal.

Di Giacomo told us that the company hoped to see SUSE Linux turn up in cars, possibly with a BMW badge on, next year or the year after. Rather than merely running the entertainment and navigation systems, SUSE expects to see Linux dealing with driving the car itself. Back in May, SUSE buddied up with Elektrobit in a partnership aimed at getting mission-critical Linux and containers into automobiles.

"There's a big opportunity there for open source, and for Linux to replace what was existing before," he said.

SUSE has also focused on AI and ML, with updates aimed at abstracting data scientists away from the grungier bits of the technology due in the September to October timeframe.

As for the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) at whose KubeCon Di Giacomo was speaking, he warned that while Kubernetes was maturing in its own way and innovation continued apace within its ecosystem, complexity presented a challenge.

"It's getting quite complicated," he said, and suggested that making things a bit more "consumable" should be a focus. Innovation, however, would need to be protected.

"You need to find the right balance," he said, "You don't want to slow down the innovation. But you also want to guide and channel it in a way that is relevant and usable in real life at some point." ®

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