Manage Linux server from Microsoft System Center? SUSE goes for it

SUSE seems to recognize that many companies use both Windows and Linux.

Today, SUSE announced what they call the SUSE Manager Management Pack for Microsoft System Center, which essentially provides a way to manage both Windows and SUSE Linux servers from a single console.

Two things immediately struck me about this announcement.

  1. That has got to be one of the longest product names I have ever seen. Even if you shorten it to an acronym ("SMMPfMSC") it's still a pretty major mouthful.
  2. I'm sure some within the Linux community will raise an eyebrow about the words "Microsoft" and "Windows" being used.

So when I had the opportunity to sit down with the leadership team of SUSE - some quality one-on-one time for me to ask them anything I wanted - this was certainly one of the topics on my mind. What follows are my general takeaways from those conversations. (I should make it clear that what follows are purely my own thoughts on this announcement.)

While SUSE is an open source company, with a pretty major focus and commitment to free and open source software, it seems to recognize that not every company is that way. Many companies use both Windows and Linux servers in order to meet their needs. Heck, even companies that may want to use a 100% Linux server infrastructure may simply have too large of an investment in Windows Server to switch overnight.

This means that mixed (Windows and Linux) environments are a reality. And that reality isn't likely to change any time soon. So the SUSE approach seems to be, "let's build tools to make it as easy and pleasant as possible to use Linux servers within a company that also uses Windows servers."

I suppose an argument could be made that this sort of tool merely makes it easier for many companies to continue running, and investing in, Windows Server. And there would be some merit to that argument. But I think that, even if true, is far outweighed by two other factors.

The first is freedom, and not just in terms of "Free and Open Source" software, which is wonderful, but also freedom of choice. By offering tools like this, SUSE is basically saying "Hey, we make this great open source server. You probably want to run it. Oh, you're stuck running that closed source server, too? No worries. We won't judge. In fact, here's some additional software to make your life easier." I find that refreshing.

The second, and far more fun, way to look at it is... as a bit of a server Trojan horse. Close your eyes and imagine with me for a moment.

You run the IT department at a medium-sized company that uses Windows Server for everything from email to your website. You've been trying to convince upper management to use Linux for years without much success. Then a company comes along with a Linux server solution that makes it easy to manage and maintain both Linux and Windows Server side-by-side (in one, single control panel)... thus keeping costs as low as possible. Which your manager loves. The green light is given and you now have your first Linux-powered server.

Flash forward a year or two. It's time to upgrade your aging Windows Servers. What's this? You're already using a Linux server that is not only performing well... but you have a control panel that is built by a Linux company? It kind of seems like you're IT infrastructure is pretty Linux-focused already. Time for a new Linux server to replace Windows!

Is that how SUSE views it? I can't really speak to that. But, if so, they're being pretty damned smart.

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