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Saturday, 12 November 2016 03:28

SUSE's Asia focus grows under new owners

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With the acquisition of SUSE Linux in 2014 by the British mainframe group Micro Focus, a great deal of attention has been focused on the Asian region, with the company now having a vice-president for the Asia Pacific.

Andy Jiang, who also functions as general manager for SUSE in Japan, told iTWire on the sidelines of SUSECon 2016, the annual SUSE Linux conference being held in Washington this week, that growth in the region was encouraging and staff were being taken on as the operations grew.

The region is divided into China, Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and south-east Asia), India, Japan and the ANZ region.

"In terms of growth, it is strong in India, China and south-east Asia," Jiang said. "In the ANZ region and Japan, there is moderate growth." About half of the revenue for the entire region comes from China, he added.

Jiang said his role involved a great deal of travel, sometimes for as much of 250 days in the year. In that he is not alone, for the Adelaide-based Peter Lees, the chief technologist for the Asia-Pacific region, is close behind.

asia suse big

Looking after Asia: Andy Jiang and Peter Lees.

With many small and medium business in the region thinking of moving to the public cloud, Jiang said that SUSE would work with other cloud providers like AWS, with whom SUSE has a global agreement, to facilitate moves. He said many Microsoft customers were also thinking of an open source approach.

Lees said SUSE was the dominant Linux vendor in China, with three of China's five biggest banks having standardised their businesses on SUSE.

Jiang said his aim was to make SUSE profitable but with a greater degree of productivity. "Our total number of employees in China is one-fourth of our competitor (Red Hat)," he said. "But when it comes to profits, we are right up there with them."

In India, Lees said there were lots of Unix to Linux conversion opportunities. He said the use of SAP was growing fast and in percentage terms there was very high growth.

When it came to sourcing staff, Jiang said that there were lots of people to choose from in places like China, south-east Asia and India. "In developed countries like New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and Australia it is more difficult to find suitable people," he said.

Despite the general working atmosphere in Asia being different from the West, Jiang said that SUSE maintained its flat structure. "The morale is good and we are growing well for the last 18 months," he said.

Asked about the negatives of doing business in Asia, he said that these varied from country to country. "In more developed countries, the business processes are more settled. In emerging markets it is easier to find opportunities but there is more enabling needed."

Lees said it was challenging to cover an area where half the world's population lives. Most of his travel is during the last quarter of the financial year and he has lots of presentations to make. He said following the company's motto of "we adapt" made it easier to work in the region.

As far as cultural differences go, Jiang said in English-speaking countries the focus was often on the business value of a product. "A relationship may be a catalyst but may not be necessary. In some parts of northern Asia, relationships matter. People put their careers on the line and depend on your support.

"In some countries, we have to take into account the fact that the governments may favour local vendors and work within those constraints."

Lees said he had encountered no resistance from people in the region. "There is a general history of Westerners coming in and helping and I am there always to help," he said, adding that one had to be culturally sensitive to work successfully in the region.

"I've had a good run for four years," Jiang said, rating the quality of business he had done as being superior to that of his main competitor.

The writer is attending SUSECon as a guest of the company.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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