The OCTOpod: Conversations with SUSE's Office of the CTO

Why IT Leaders Choose Open Source with Brent Schroeder

September 29, 2021 Alan Clark - Office of the CTO, SUSE Episode 9
The OCTOpod: Conversations with SUSE's Office of the CTO
Why IT Leaders Choose Open Source with Brent Schroeder
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome back to season one of The OCTOPod, where we are continuing our conversations about open source! Today, you’ll hear from Brent Schroeder about why IT leaders are choosing open source. As Global CTO, Brent is responsible for shaping SUSE’s technology and portfolio strategy in support of emerging use cases in areas such as Hybrid Cloud, IoT, and AI/ML. He drives technology relationships with numerous industry partners, participates in open source communities, as well as evangelizes the SUSE vision with customers, press, and analysts. In this episode, Brent unpacks some of the main findings from SUSE’s recent research report on why IT leaders are choosing open source and we discuss how COVID has accelerated innovation in IT, the role of open source in helping corporations achieve their business objectives, and some of the primary motivators driving explosive growth in this area, plus so much more! Tune in today.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Brent shares a bit about the SUSE research report on why IT leaders are choosing open.
  • Why this report is of interest for developers; the value of being on the same page as leaders.
  • How the pandemic has accelerated innovation in IT, from technologies to processes.
  • Key investment areas for IT leaders, including multi-cloud strategy and edge computing.
  • How IT has evolved from cost center to enabler of business opportunity and differentiation.
  • Brent on the role of open source in enabling these new initiatives and driving innovation.
  • His thoughts on how the involvement of big tech players can benefit the community.
  • What COVID has taught him about innovation in technology; why innovation is not an option.
  • Some of the innovative technology Brent has seen being adopted, like containers.
  • How user-centric open source forums are influencing business leaders and IT leaders.
  • The top three motivators driving explosive growth: velocity, flexibility, and cost efficiency.

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Brent Schroeder on LinkedIn


‘Why Today’s IT Leaders Are Choosing Open’


Alan Clark



[00:00:02] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The OCTOpod, hosted by Alan Clark and brought to you by the SUSE & Rancher Community. Alan has spent his software career focused on open source advocacy and emerging tech. In The OCTOpod season one, Alan talks with experts across technology about trends and challenges in open source, from building communities to diversity and inclusion, to keeping the open in open source.


[00:00:36] AC: Hi, everyone. Welcome to The OCTOpod. We're continuing our conversations about open source and, today, we're talking with Brent Schroeder, who heads up the office of the CTO for SUSE in the Americas. I've asked Brent to join me here today to discuss why IT leaders are choosing open source. Brent, it's great to have you here with us today.

[00:01:01] BS: Absolutely. Thanks, Alan. It's great to be here.

[00:01:04] AC: Brent, we want to start off. I noticed that SUSE recently released a research report about why IT leaders are choosing open. I thought, it would be interesting to unpack some of the main findings from that report and other information that I know you have from some of the conversations you've had with executives and customers, and so forth. First off, tell us a little bit about the report, why SUSE did it, and who was surveyed? The details around it.

[00:01:37] BS: Sure, Alan. We really wanted to better understand how IT leaders in businesses are using technology to support innovation efforts, particularly in a time when COVID-19 has been really disruptive to economies, industries, and organizations. Building on research that was published in 2020, we surveyed 800 IT leaders in businesses with 250 or more employees. Our goal was to identify the must have technologies and approaches to find out what is fueling innovation. We published our findings in a report called ‘Why Today's IT Leaders Are Choosing Open'.

[00:02:18] AC: Okay. Now in this report, I'm sure we're going to cover a lot of data and statistics, that's going to be of interest to the executives. We have a lot of developers in our audience. Before they hit the stop button, give me a little bit about why this should be of interest to a developer?

[00:02:35] BS: That's a great point. While most developers today really understand the value of open source to them, it's important that developers and leaders be on the same page. By understanding what motivates the IT executive, developers who need to make the case for utilizing an open source approach, or are called upon to help build a business case, they can put in terms that also align with the IT leaders’ motivations, and with the business owners’ motivations as well.

[00:03:06] AC: Okay. I recently read an analyst report, and I've seen a couple of these. They're demonstrating that the pandemic has accelerated years of change down into a few months. What would have normally been scheduled out over years has occurred within just a few months. What we're seeing is a big change in the way companies across all the sectors and regions about how they're doing business. Are you seeing similar things and findings in this report? How is this impacting IT?

[00:03:42] BS: IT leaders are under even more pressure to deliver tangible outcomes for the business than last year. If you think about what the pandemic has done. It has, at times, changed business needs overnight. In the report, 76 percent of the leaders say that they feel under more pressure to deliver tangible outcomes for the business than just 12 months ago. That was up from 67 percent. You can see that the pressure is increasing.

They can’t rely on the traditional way of doing things to deliver more faster. IT leaders I've talked to are more willing than ever to change the way IT works; from the technologies they use, to the processes used to manage and deliver both infrastructure and application. This study bears out this as well. Most important tech investment pillars that they have are simplifying how they run the business, followed by modernizing or changing how they run the business, then finally, with those two in place, you can accelerate change and scale the business. That's really the motivating factors that I’ve seen from them that they've reported in this report. They really are accelerating innovation in IT.

[00:05:07] AC: When you say they're investing, and they're modernizing, to me, that says they're investing. They're investing in technology, so not just process, but in the technology themselves. Let's talk a little bit about what this report is saying about how they're investing in technology to help them accomplish these goals.

[00:05:29] BS: Yeah, let me start with just a couple of the top challenges that must be accounted for, regardless of technology. There's security and highly available, remote access infrastructure, really top the list of challenges. This was cited by 43 percent and 34 percent respectively in our survey. In fact, non-stop IT and infrastructure has become more important than ever. Somebody might not be there. Somebody is most likely not there. If I'm using cloud, or if I'm working remotely, data center is dark. It just needs to work. It needs to be up all the time. Needs to be manageable from anywhere.

With those as the must have characteristics, technology and methodology approaches seen as important in supporting the investment pillars of modernizing, accelerating, and the business include multi-cloud strategy, high-performance computing, 5G enhanced connectivity, DevOps, automated IT, and edge computing. In surveying about the technologies, all of these received a response from greater than 80 percent of the participants that these are their key investment areas to make them successful going forward.

[00:06:46] AC: As you talked about and elaborated these key investment areas, or these pillars, as you call them, how is this changing the role of IT?

[00:06:55] BS: Yeah, IT has evolved the past few years from what we would traditionally refer to as a cost center to an enabler of business opportunity and differentiation. As a strategic partner in the business, their role has evolved from infrastructure management, to solution providers and problem solvers. The business comes to them and say, “I want to accomplish X.” Now, it used to be, “Hey, my email is down, or the ERP system’s offline. What's wrong?” It was, go figure out which system had failed and restarted recovery.

Now, they're a partner right up at the beginning to say, “Hey, here's what we want to accomplish. How do we accomplish this?” The solution providers, problem solver mentality. They must look across the spectrum of technology choices, to determine how best to enable the business, protect the business and differentiate the business in those scenarios.

[00:07:54] AC: It sounds to me like, IT is becoming much more strategic rather than just the day-to-day problem solvers.

[00:08:01] BS: Absolutely.

[00:08:02] AC: Let's shift a little bit and talk about my favorite topic, about the role of open source in enabling all these initiatives that they've got on their plate now.

[00:08:12] BS: We’ve seen a pretty dramatic shift the past few years, from healthy skepticism to being seen as a leading enabler. Going back to their new role, how do they become more successful? That's what they're looking for. What technologies can help me? In the survey, 84 percent of IT leaders see open source as a way to cost effectively drive innovation, and 78 percent are looking to migrate from proprietary to open source solutions wherever possible.

These numbers go up even further, when you look at high-impact, emerging use cases, such as edge, where 85 percent feel that open source solutions enable more innovation. I couldn't agree more with the survey results. If you think about a solution like edge, or AI, Linux and Kubernetes as two examples of open source projects, really enable a company to build a highly optimized solution tailored to their needs. Whether it's a small footprint device, unique communication needs, or extreme scale in a number of locations, this flexibility wouldn't be possible using traditional proprietary solutions. It'd be years for them to innovate versus being able to turn around at the speed business is changing today.

[00:09:38] AC: Yeah. You mentioned some of the areas I find really fun. It brings to mind some of the solutions that are coming out of those. You mentioned AI, automotive, retail, manufacturing. There's lots of examples. As you mentioned, using open source technologies, such as Linux and Kubernetes, you can see how we can build solutions with consistency from across all the way from the edge, clear across to the cloud. You just can't do that with proprietary today.

One thing that jumped out at me when we were reading the report has to do with a growing concern in the open source world. Clearly, the majority of leaders in that report, 82 percent of them, say they feel optimistic about the future of open source software. What I thought was interesting is 76 percent of them say that the involvement of big tech players in open source may erode the confidence and trust in the community. What's your thoughts on this topic?

[00:10:43] BS: That's a great question and a valid question. I'm remaining optimistic on this point. First, the breadth of companies contributing to and sponsoring open source communities, including big tech, further highlights the expansion and importance of open source to the industry and more reflective demand from the customers. Big tech joining can be and has been a positive influence for open source innovation. It brings more resources together and less infighting or competition among competing solutions that may take years to put thdat out.

A great example of this is the advent of Kubernetes. Kubernetes was contributed by a big tech firm. The key for communities is that all players, including the big tech, stick to the good open source principles. The principles are what he trust and confidence in the community. Then, I'd also put some of the responsibility here on the customers. The customers that are using open source technology need to hold all industry contributors accountable to these open source principles. I think, with the combination of those, open source is in good hands, and welcoming to all participants that want to participate and contribute and also utilize open sources as a technology and innovation vehicle.

[00:12:13] AC: I agree with you, Brent. I want to circle back a little bit. We talked about worldwide events, such as COVID. There's these businesses and their business leaders, of course, they not only have to deal with change, but they have to deal with what we call external shocks. Ever increasing and ever varied competition, regulations, our expectations of customers, as customers are shifting dramatically, very rapidly. What has all of this taught us about – all this commotion – what has it taught us about innovation in technology?

[00:12:52] BS: Well, I think the one thing it is, it forced organizations to be more innovative. Today, being a slow follower now puts a business at risk because it can shift so fast. If you cannot respond, you either get left behind or, ultimately, go out of business. Innovation is not an option. 60 percent of respondents in our survey said, innovation has accelerated or increased due to COVID.

I think, companies do find balancing innovation and the need for stability or resiliency to be a challenge. I think, that the open source solutions themselves, really can help with this balance, as the industry and collaboration helps accelerate the innovation, by all that contribute to it. Being able to adopt and use that more quickly, really helps companies stay at the forefront much more readily than if open source wasn't available.

[00:13:56] AC: Very good. Let's get a little more specific and talk about the technology itself. What are some of the innovative technology that you see that's being adopted?

[00:14:07] BS: Yeah. Probably one of the most disruptive at the center of everything is containers. We find that 42 percent of companies are currently running for containers, or production workloads, with a further 41 percent planning to run containers, or production workloads in the next 12 months. Where containers are already being run, 72 percent definitely plan to increase the proportion of production workloads that are containerized over the next 12 months.

I think, that all points to, there's this very fast transition going on and what containers enables the recognition, that containers enables companies to innovate, like they've never been able to do before, or in ways that they haven't been able to do before with previous technology. What they want in this is a commercially curated and supported distribution of an open source Kubernetes platform. 66 percent of respondents said that that's what they would like. Ahead of building, maintaining, and supporting their own platform, which only 34 percent were in that camp.

I think, the reason for that is is that why do they want to be experts in integrating the change in technology? Kubernetes has a lot of moving parts. There's a lot of new elements being integrated all the time. Rather than having to be a specialist in tracking and integrating by relying on an industry distribution, then they've got a partner to help them with that side of it, and they can focus on their business.

Finally, the top three things users or planners look for in a Kubernetes platform is 100 percent open source, multi-cluster and potential for edge deployments, and ease of installation. They want it. They see all the ways that they can deploy it, and what the value that Kubernetes is bringing to the table in helping orchestrate the vast growth in containers. That's really how Kubernetes brings additional value to the space of containers.

[00:16:24] AC: Now, a couple minutes ago, you brought in the topic of users and their role with open source. We're actually seeing an expansion of open source collaboration with users. We're seeing user-centric forums. We're seeing large growth in that area of new and existing user-centric forums. I'm thinking of groups such as FINOS, that's in the financial sector, and [inaudible 00:16:52] in the automotive space. There's lots of examples out there that we can talk about. Can you talk to us a little bit about how these types of forums are reaching into today's business, particularly into IT leaders?

[00:17:11] BS: Yeah, absolutely. I think, these are coming about as a direct result of the success the technical community has had in collaboration, as open sources, as filtered throughout the IT ecosystem, from the infrastructure, to the development tools, to AI and software distribution. All of that's now being driven and concentrated in open source projects. I think, IT leaders see this and look at this and say, “Hey, why not me?” And business leaders. “Why can't we collaborate in areas across the industry, to bring a greater good to our customers?”

Just because it's open source, doesn't necessarily inhibit innovation, and differentiation themselves. They can still focus on adding to, or extending and building around open source projects. I think, the IT leaders and the business leaders have seen the success now catching the fever, if you will, to want to tap into that capability and what that delivered and see how it can be applied to their industry. I anticipate this expanding much broader over the coming years and years of manufacturing and retail, and just in general across industries, as they want to take advantage of the open source model.

[00:18:50] AC: You've brought out some really great points and motivators and a lot of statistics. I'd like to just tie this up and perhaps summarize what you think are the top two or three motivators that's driving the explosive growth, and maybe answers very directly, why do IT leaders choose open source?

[00:19:14] BS: Yeah. I think, it's pretty easy to summarize once you spend some time with them. For an IT or business leader, it all comes down to supporting corporate objectives. We talked about IT being a strategic partner of the of the business. These are usually rooted in business metrics. That includes driving new revenue opportunities, optimizing resource efficiencies, or improving their customer experience.

An open source is now recognized as enabling these business outcomes. I think, there's three key factors in open source that do that. The enabling of velocity, flexibility, and cost efficiency. Velocity and being able to collaborate and leverage industry work. It's not just a 1,000 or 2,000, or 3,000 developers that are building proprietary software. It's potentially tens of thousands, or millions of developers contributing, so that you get to leverage that, and it really drives velocity of change and velocity of innovation.

Being open source leads to the next aspect, and that is of flexibility. The flexibility to choose the implementation, distribution, deployment model, consumption model that best fits to the application that I've got. I could choose a vendor, one distribution for one solution. I could choose another distribution for another solution. One industry may want to make aggregate around one distribution. It gives the user, the IT organization flexibility.

Then finally, cost efficiencies for applying more resources more efficiently, since they're shared versus competing in open source, so we can deliver, the industry can deliver solutions that are more cost-effective price point, cost point for the organization, which again, delivers direct to the bottom-line business values. That's what I see as what is it that really nets this out, is this is open source helps corporations achieve their business objectives.

[00:21:22] AC: Brent, thank you for joining me today and sharing your experience and your insights in this area.

[00:21:28] BS: Thanks, Alan. It's been a great time.

[00:21:30] AC: This is the final episode of season one of the OCTOPod. We're going to take a short break and plan for season two. We'd love to know what you think and what it is you like to hear more about. Let us know give us feedback. Thanks for tuning into this season. We're having a lot of fun and we look forward to sharing our experiences with you in season two.


[00:21:51] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning into this episode of The OCTOPod. Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode. While you're at it, if you found value in the show, we'd appreciate a rating on iTunes. Or if you simply tell a friend about the show, that’d help us out, too. You can connect with us at SUSE & Rancher Community at