Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce SUSE now and in the future: Hubert Mantel speaks

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On September 2 this year, SUSE will mark 20 years in the Linux business. That's an eternity in an industry where 18 months is considered a lifetime.

The company was set up in Nuremberg by three university students - Hubert Mantel (pic below), Roland Dyroff, and Burchard Steinbild - and a software engineer, Thomas Fehr.

They wanted to build software and provide UNIX support and decided to distribute Linux, offering support.

For those who wonder about the name, Wikipedia says: "The name 'S.u.S.E' was originally a German acronym for 'Software und System-Entwicklung', meaning 'Software and systems development'. However, the full name has never been used and the company has always been known as 'S.u.S.E', shortened to 'SuSE' in October 1998 and more recently 'SUSE'."

In mid-1992, the Soft Landing System (SLS) distribution, the very first GNU/Linux distribution, was produced by Peter MacDonald; Patrick Volkerding then brought out Slackware which was largely based on SLS. And in 1994, the first S.u.S.E Linux emerged, a German version of Slackware.

A couple of years later the company built its own distro, based on the now extinct jurix. The founder of jurix, Florian La Roche joined the company, and was responsible for building YaST, the SUSE installer.

Hubert Mantek

Last year, SUSE, since 2004 a part of Novell, was moved back to Nuremberg as a separate unit after Attachmate Corporation bought Novell and took the company private.

One of the original SUSE hackers, Mantel, rejoined the company a few years back and now has a chance to help the company re-cultivate some of that original culture which made it so well-known.

Over the years, technology companies that lost their original technical leads have tended to go downhill - two cases in point are Sun Microsystems and Microsoft. Mantel's return is thus a big positive for SUSE.

iTWire invited Mantel to participate in a Q and A to mark the 20th anniversary of SUSE and he was kind enough to agree.

ITWIre: SUSE was once the predominant GNU/Linux distribution in Europe. Now that it has relocated back in Nuremberg, how much time do you think it will take before it can regain that status again?

Hubert Mantel: I think the whole computer/Linux world has changed in a way that it no longer makes sense to talk about a predominant distribution in an absolute way. When you talk about mobile devices, the answer certainly is Android; when it comes to desktops in the Linux community, it might be Ubuntu, while many internet and web servers are running some flavor of Debian.

The Linux business has evolved into an industry with many facets where many players have specialised on certain aspects. And in the enterprise segment, SUSE is very well established and plays an important role in providing Linux for global companies.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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