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How Equinix Metal Is Helping SUSE Make Cloud-Native Easy For Users


Equinix Metal has been a long-time partner of both SUSE and Rancher. Together, it allows them to serve a wide range of use cases and customers going beyond private cloud and public cloud towards hybrid cloud, edge and Kubernetes-driven diverse infrastructure. In this episode, I sat down with Jacob Smith, VP of Bare Metal Strategy and Marketing at Equinix and Brent Schroeder, Global CTO of SUSE, to learn more about their partnership.

Topics we covered in this show include:

  • Both Equinix Metal and SUSE stress on the importance of partnership. We talked about the history of their partnership.
  • SUSE serves a lot of industries. What are some of the use cases where Equinix Metal helps them help their customers?
  • Talk about proximity-based ecosystems and interconnections.
  • What kind of challenges does SUSE face when  it works with public and private networks?
  • Why should developers care about bare metal?
  • I do see that the edge will change developers’ approach towards hardware. What do Jacob and Brent think about it?
  • How are Equinix Metal and SUSE leveraging open source?
  • How much cultural shift is Jacob seeing in the space in terms of adoption of open source technologies?
  • What are the areas where Jacob is looking forward to partnering with SUSE and Rancher?

Guests: Jacob Smith (LinkedIn)
Brent Schroeder (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Companies: Equinix Metal (Twitter)
SUSE (Twitter)


Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host Swapnil Bhartiya and welcome to another episode TFiR: Let’s Talk and today we have two guests, one Brent Schroeder CTO of SUSE and Jacob Smith, VP of Bare Metal Strategy & Marketing at Equinix Metal. Brent, Jacob, it’s great to have you both on the show again.

Brent Schroeder: Great to be here Swapnil.

Jacob Smith: Nice to See you.

Swapnil Bhartiya: The interesting thing is that with both SUSE and Equinix Metal, SUSE always talk about open source of the importance of partnerships. So this is going to be an interesting discussion today, because same is the kind of mindset at Equinix Metal as well. So let’s start with the partnership between these two companies for how long have you been partnered? What are the areas that you partner and SUSE itself has been through a lot of things you folks acquired Rancher recently. So there’s so much to talk about their… Let’s start with your story, your history together.

Jacob Smith:  So we’ve been partnering with both SUSE and Rancher for a long time. So it’s great that they’re all now one together makes it so much easier. But I think you could sum it up as basically hardware and software go together and where we take, we let off this is where Rancher and SUSE really come and add their values. So it’s all about the move towards Kubernetes as a hybrid cloud underlay and sort of making that possible wherever customers need their infrastructure. And that’s really where SUSE and their portfolio sort of shines. Is it embracing the sort of diversity of infrastructure? You want public cloud, you want private, you want Edge, that’s sort of in their DNA and pairing that with a sort of enterprise level support that I think we all need as we service digital leaders.

Brent Schroeder: Yep. Now I would echo that and the… You said it’s such a natural partnership. Our customers want to be able to deploy SUSE and Rancher solutions wherever they need where it’s optimized and Equinix provides a great global infrastructure for being able to do that.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Excellent. Now, if I ask you Brent, as, but SUSE does a lot of thing, it serves a lot of different industries. What are the specific use cases where you do see Equinix Metal helps you folks a lot to actually help your customers as well?

Brent Schroeder: Well, I think it can fit into essentially any industry, whether it’s a traditional data center type customer or the manufacturing or even telcos. So, I think there’s a broad range of companies that can use it. And I think the value proposition is already mentioned is really about being able to get the infrastructure where you need it and the speed and agility that Equinix brings to the table. So essentially, any industry that is looking for needing that type of capabilities is a natural fit.

Jacob Smith: Yeah, I would add one thing, Brent, is that we also see a lot of traction right now between us around, regulated or, you need something in a particular place as Brent mentioned, where Equinix is really about a sense of proximity in place. We have a few hundred data centers around the world and that’s really because people need to reach for latency, but also, they need the locality when they need to be in Europe or in a particular place nearby, the ecosystem they’re trying to interact with or the regulatory environment they’re trying to comply with.

Brent Schroeder: Yeah. I think that’s a great addition in the security that it provides so that a company doesn’t have to figure out how they’re going to secure the physical proximity in the scenario that they want to support.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Right. And since you brought proximity based kind of interconnection or ecosystem. I want to understand, let’s just go talk about this use case in particular. First of all, how would you kind of, if you can elaborate on the proximity based ecosystem. And also I was reading a SUSE blog also, it was more or less about inter interconnections as well. So let’s go there and look at it as well from both perspective.

Jacob Smith: Yeah. I think it’s a great question. We say the word interconnection like everyone knows what we mean. But a lot of, especially software developers or people who are in the lines of business, they never built networks [inaudible 00:04:21] to that scale. And so they don’t know about basically the private internet.

So I like to think about public internet and private internet and interconnection basically represents that private connectivity. The most common one today is like, how do I reach AWS? How do I reach Google? And then of course, how do I reach my other infrastructure that I have maybe in my own environment and do that privately? That’s a real security benefit, a performance and a cost benefit. What I find really exciting is as we work together with companies like SUSE, is that we find that there’s a lot of other participants in the ecosystem. Maybe you want to connect to a database as a service provider. Maybe you want to connect to a security or a SD-WAN or a SASE provider. There’s all these things we’re all trying to connect to. And doing that over the public internet is fine, but doing it over the private internet is often better.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Brent, if I ask, what kind of challenges do you see when you do work with public network and private, because there are, of course you mentioned security, privacy, and then of course, identity management, access control. There are so many challenges that can be there. So can you talk from that perspective as well?

Brent Schroeder: First, I’d like to echo a little bit of what Jacob said there is that, when you’ve really got to have a secure environment and manage the proximity and Equinix brings that very well. Then when you got to start using public internets or public networks, then you do have that challenge where you’ve got to bring that on and take that on to a larger degree on yourself, which can introduce some challenges. So, anytime you can leverage capabilities that the service providers provide. We would strongly suggest that taking advantage of that.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Now let’s just quickly switch gears and talk purely from users, which in this case would be developers perspective. I do hear that developers do talk about, they are talking about Bare Metal Hardware lot these days, but if I ask you Jacob, why should developers care about hardwares and data centers and the impact it will have on their workloads and what kind of trends you’re seeing in these space that, do they really care? If not, should they?

Jacob Smith: That’s a great question. It’s always funny. I think no one wakes, well, very few developers wake up in the morning and think about hardware. They think about what they want to ship and what they want to do. But it’s kind of undeniable that the hardware is becoming more valuable to the equation. I was watching a keynote earlier this morning by Pat Gelsinger, Intel, obviously pretty big in the hardware space, right? But making a real play that said, he said the software is the soul of hardware. And that was an interesting way to look at it, which is these two things go together very naturally, but especially as you scale, you try to differentiate. So I think as we kind of move beyond sort of generic, workloads and I think SUSE and Equinix both kind of specialize more in the, “Hey, what are you trying to do to win? What are you trying to do to differentiate with technology?” That’s where it really comes into play and it’s moving pretty fast.

So we see it with our MacBooks and our iPhones and the same thing is happening in the data center. And there’s a big opportunity, but we need to make it easier. Because having hardware is one thing, wanting to be able to use it, move it, move your software across different environments. That’s the area where developers frankly want the… You want to give up the ease of use that you have when you’ve maybe been born in the cloud. And I think there’s projects like Rancher Harvester that are trying to bring that experience to more places, obviously there’s Kubernetes in general. But I think this idea of how do I kind of simplify consuming more advanced hardwares is a really intriguing one.

Brent Schroeder: On the point on the developers and they wake up thinking about hardware, I agree. I don’t think they… That’s the first thing on their mind, but I think what they do think about is, “How do I ensure a certain level of services or capabilities that I’m delivering to my customer of my application?” That they do care about and being able to tap into platforms and have the flexibility to choose a platform that delivers the characteristics and capabilities that the developer needs or that application experience needs to deliver. I think it is something that is on their mind, how do they ensure that? And they’re not just getting a vanilla generic system that may or may not meet their needs. And I think that’s one of the things that is forefront, particularly today where customer experience is top of mind.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Yeah. One interesting thing is that if you look at today’s [inaudible 00:09:06], if we are breaking down old silos, with the all the whole DevOps movement, the fact is we are actually creating new silos. We talk about [inaudible 00:09:13]. We are… There are still silos within companies, security teams are there. So everything is becoming developer’s responsibility. I want to just talk about Edge use case. When we talk about Edge data centers that I do feel that the developer has to care about it because nobody else is managing it. The remote location, you cannot send a big teams. So do you think that there will be a time when the developers will have to care about hardware? Because they’re, it’s more or less like treat as an appliance. So whatever you’re offering it is tied to that hardware as well. So how will Edge change this?

Jacob Smith: I’m going to give you a layup, Brent, because I think it’s back in the old Rancher name, “Cattle, not pets”, right? And the whole idea that infra structure is programmable is super important at the Edge. It’s like you said, you’re going to go, click the button, check and make sure that no one got into the containerized data center or whatever it is. That’s not security, that’s not repeatability. So I think developer led infrastructure is super important or I would actually say software led, right? I don’t think this idea of DevOps, we’ve all been in DevOps and trying to get out of the Ops part and just being the Dev part because that’s where the value creation is. But it’s been a lot of friction doing that. And that’s what’s, it’s a pretty exciting time in the industry when you think about Edge as a place, that’s cool, but really it’s about the scale. “Hey, how do I put this in a few 100 places, a few 1000 places?” That’s a developer problem.

Brent Schroeder: I think the… You already mentioned Harvester, Jacob, and I think that’s step one or one of the major steps along the way is that with Harvester, now we can deliver, start to deliver that, [getopts 00:10:57] full stack management from the context of the application all the way down to the hardware. And so yes, the developer or the owner of the application now must care about the hardware. He must care that it’s secure that the applications were securely delivered, that it’s running what it’s supposed to be running. And there isn’t openings of that. And I think if we can use the [getopts 00:11:25] model to secure the entire stack all the way down to the hardware and so that I get control of that in a centralized manner and at a scalable manner to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of endpoints. That’s the direction that we’re heading and how this will evolve.

Jacob Smith: It’s interesting you mentioned getopts because that also, we can all say things like DevOps or Shift-left, but the idea of doing some of it in the open, like even with open within your company, like getopts, you don’t have to be open to the world [inaudible 00:11:58], you can go look at what’s going on there, at that sense of transparency has really been, I think a fascinating output of the open source movement. And certainly you guys, you’re open early, you guys are putting projects out like Harvester from day one. And I think that’s really an interesting way of not just kind of innovating, but also adding resiliency to the system.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Right, and since you brought in open source and of course, I mean, it’s contested, but I always consider SUSE to be the first Op company who kind of commercialized Linux and open source. It predates Red Hat in many cases. Let’s go back to Harvester since you brought it up. And it’s one of many great technologies that ever developed at Rancher. Let’s talk about how you folks are leveraging it to help your joint customer respective over the SUSE, Rancher or Equinix Metal customer.

Jacob Smith: Yeah. It’s pretty exciting. I’ll go from my side first, Brent, because I’ve actually been calling, I’ve been calling to SUSE guys and say, “Hey, can we work together on Harvester?” Because I think, especially as we’ve joined Equinix and we were Packet when Rancher was Rancher and now we’re SUSE and Equinix and we’re dealing with enterprises, enterprises want solutions, right? Developers live everywhere, but they live… There’re a lot of them at enterprises. And so I was really excited to see what was going on with Harvesters. So we’ve been working together on that. Obviously, Brent can give the update, but it’s nearing, it’s evolving and really cool to see what’s happening there. I’m super excited just to make that easier for our customers because they’re asking for it.

Brent Schroeder: Absolutely. We see harvester as the opportunity to unify end of the existing virtualized world with the cloud native world so that people can, as they expand adoption of cloud native, then they can, but still have virtualized applications that they need to support. They can now use a common management paradigm to manage those. So using harvester to, or rancher to deploy workloads, virtualized workloads to harvester, deploy containerized workloads to Kubernetes or container environments and use a Kubernetes control plane to essentially manage all of that. And I think the beauty of doing it with open source rather than a proprietary model is that now everybody will be familiar with it. It’s the same methodology that they’re starting to adopt in cloud native. I think we’ll see the world progress much quicker that way and get more collaboration and integration becomes easier because you’re not dealing with proprietary interfaces and each one being unique. So I think we’re going to see many of it values come out of choosing open source and doing it in a cloud native model versus a bolting on cloud native to a more legacy traditional infrastructure.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Jacob, if I ask, for, purely from hardware perspective, how do you see open source as you earlier mentioned that you are like excited with SUSE, can we work together on, so if I ask you, how do you look at this adoption of open source? How much does it mean for cultural shift within Equinix Metal or Packet, or you’re like, “Hey, this is the reality. This is the direction we are heading in.”

Jacob Smith: Yeah, I think open source is key. I, again, I reference, I had this keynote from Pat Gelsinger in my head because it was just a couple hours ago and Intel was talking about how much, how important it was to innovate in the open. And we see the same thing. The challenges that we face in the physical world are also really applicable to open, to being open things like sustainability and liquid cooling things like optimization. Obviously our own business interests are to create more people and more companies that are really capable with infrastructure. And so I take the whole open source. What do they say, “Make the tent bigger” approach and open source is a way in which we can do that with both physical and software businesses. I think it’s actually just really critical. We got to solve some big problems. Sustainability is not an easy one.

And we’re on a path where we need more people able to contribute to that. So, we’ve opened source and technology. Swapnil, I think we’ve talked about Tinkerbell, which is at the CNCF Sandbox right now. A lot of people questioned us. They’re like, “Wait, wait, why would you take your core like, Bare Metal provisioning magic and give it away.” I was like, “It’s easy. We want more people to be better at this. We think we are going to define our value in different ways than turning servers on off.” But I think inviting more parts of the ecosystem in, it’s just such a clear winning strategy.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What do you see? I mean, of course, as I said, Brent, you folks have been doing [inaudible 00:16:59] all about open source, but what kind of changes are you seeing in the mindset of within industry where people are getting comfortable with open source or they’re embracing it and they [inaudible 00:17:08] to be part of this movement?

Brent Schroeder: Yeah, I think, I mean, you think you just said it is that, we see is absolutely being embraced at all levels of the company. If you go back just a few years, it was the practitioners were kind of leading it and pushing and open to using open source. But now you see, enterprise companies of all sizes in all industries, not just accepting open source, but embracing it and participating in the actual projects themselves. And I think, one example of that in the adoption is we’re now seeing a few open source communities emerge that really are coming from the use case and business side, [FinOS 00:17:59] or [SoPHIE 00:18:01] as a couple of examples, one in finance and one in automotive where, now you’ve got that user community saying, “Hey, this has been so successful in how we collaborate and there’s still room to innovate in how you deliver services and build around that open source ecosystem.” So I think it’s really the norm now versus the exception.

Jacob Smith: I think Brent makes a great point about businesses driving new value into open source. That’s fascinating because we’re really seeing, we all use the word service provider, SUSE has a long history servicing service providers and so does Equinix. We often mean like telcos or maybe digital service providers like clouds, but like almost every company is becoming a service provider to themselves, whether you’re an automotive or gaming or financial services or whatnot, there’s people building platforms. And so that idea that all of it would be proprietary, I think is, doesn’t fall in line with what we’ve seen. And the value of doing that in the open is really important, I mean, there’s also costs, and I think some of that still needs to be work on, the maintainer out there maintaining something we all use is still a real deal. And a lot of people toil in the shadows and I think we owe it to the community to find ways to support that better alongside the projects that are obvious and important to us.

Swapnil Bhartiya: You cannot make any announcement. But if I ask, what are the other areas that you folks are excited about partnering, or these are the area that you feel like, “Hey, now we should explore together?”

Jacob Smith: Yeah. I got a wishlist because I love working with Rancher and SUSE. I think the hardest one is how are we going to solve? I’m self interested in solving this interconnection issue and private connectivity. I think it’s a really important part of the puzzle that frankly developers aren’t comfortable with. And we have to figure out how to make that better, yeah.

Brent Schroeder: I think that’s a great topic. I think in the areas of security, that’s top of mind to everybody and as things become more applications and businesses become more interconnected, how do we ensure that, how do we ensure supply chain? I think that was another one that is critical for us to tackle as an industry and as partners so…

Jacob Smith: Yeah. Sustainability, software supply chain, hardware supply chain, there are big problems that we’re all like as developers and end users and lines of business going to be touching for real.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Brent, Jacob, thank you so much for taking time out today and talk about, of course, the partnership between these two companies who value partners and open source equally. So it’s great to have you both in the same frame. Thanks for your time today and I look forward to our next conversation. Thank you.

Jacob Smith: See you soon.

Brent Schroeder: Thank you very much.