In some big open-source news this week, SUSE announced its intent to acquire Rancher Labs. This is a big deal in an industry that is rapidly consolidating around the new normal of Kubernetes. IBM purchased Red Hat giving it, among other assets, a Linux distribution with a Kubernetes container management platform. Canonical has a well-known Kubernetes platform and even has microk8s available via the GUI installer in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Focal Fossa. Now, SUSE has a first-class Kubernetes platform.
SUSE to Acquire Rancher Labs
Rancher Labs was early to the concept of container management. Years ago, STH had a piece on Docker Swarm Management: A Quick Overview of Rancher, Portainer, and Shipyard and found Rancher to be the most feature-rich and Portainer to be the easiest for small installations. Over the past few years, we have seen the rise and fall of Docker as we saw the leader in early container ecosystems Acquiesce and Adopt Kubernetes. This culminated in Mirantis buying Docker Enterprise. We also saw other consolidations such as Red Hat buying CoreOS in Kubernetes container ecosystem play. Even legacy providers are jumping in the arena with VMware Tanzu and Cloud Foundation 4.0 for Enterprise Infrastructure.
Against this background, Rancher Labs pivoted and built a leading enterprise Kubernetes platform. We covered this move in our piece Rancher 2.0 is Full Steam Ahead on Kubernetes. A great example for those in the US of customer adoption of Rancher’s platform was to manage Chick-Fil-A’s in-store k8s clusters. (See here.)
For SUSE, they needed a play to be relevant as their existing CaaS offering was falling behind. IBM Red Hat, VMware, Canonical, and all of the major cloud platforms had their own Kubernetes services with revenue behind them. Having a k8s platform has become table stakes in being a current generation ecosystem. Buying Rancher Labs was the right move to get a product and customers immediately.
A few interesting notes on the announcement. First, in the Rancher Labs announcement, it was noted that: “The acquisition of Rancher is the first step in SUSE’s inorganic growth strategy since becoming a fully independent software company in March 2019.” (Source: Rancher Labs) The post on the SUSE announcement page did not mention that detail. Still, it seems like SUSE is looking to go on an acquisition run to bolster its software offerings. Perhaps in a few years, we look at SUSE in the same light that we looked at Red Hat prior to the IBM-Red Hat deal. It certainly seems like SUSE is heading in that direction based on this acquisition and some of the signaling around it.