Fujitsu Selects Rancher Labs For UK Government Kubernetes Contracts

IT services giants are choosing Rancher’s Kubernetes platform over notable competitors—a trend Rancher founder and CEO Sheng Liang expects to ramp up after SUSE completes its acquisition of his startup.

Rancher Labs founder and CEO Sheng Liang expects his startup’s technology to provide the rocket fuel that launches SUSE into the elite tier of Kubernetes vendors.

As name-brand giants have flooded the all-important enterprise Kubernetes market in recent years, Rancher, a startup based in Cupertino, Calif., that recently agreed to SUSE’s acquisition offer, has done more than hold its own, with more than 37,000 active users of its container management platform.

That’s why some of the world’s leading systems integrators, including Fujitsu, are turning to Rancher to provide mission-critical infrastructure services over competing hybrid cloud offerings from Red Hat, VMware and Google.

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“We like to think Rancher’s already in that tier of credible, strong enterprise Kubernetes platforms,” Liang told CRN. A deal revealed Tuesday through which Fujitsu will implement Rancher infrastructure to power the U.K.’s public security agencies illustrates that fact, he said.

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IBM-Red Hat is undeniably a strong Kubernetes player, as is VMware, especially now that it owns Pivotal. Google, with its Anthos hybrid platform, is also making an aggressive play to orchestrate workloads across multiple clouds, Liang said.

But Rancher and SUSE bring something to the table those tech giants don’t, he said.

“The biggest differentiation from our perspective is really the openness,” Liang told CRN. “And that’s what really attracted us to SUSE, and why SUSE liked us so much.”

It’s not about being better at running Kubernetes clusters on public clouds like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, as “you can pretty much get it at cost everywhere, on all the clouds.” What “Rancher is for” is making that technology work for the enterprise, Liang said.

“Open source can still be a not very open business model by restricting ultimately your support matrix and controlling what choices the customer can make,” Liang said. “That’s not SUSE and Rancher. And that resonates with customers more and more.”

When the acquisition closes later this year, Liang will take charge of SUSE’s engineering and innovation organization with the goal of driving further differentiation for the German open-source software giant.

“I think Rancher and SUSE will be the platform of choice for customers who care about an open solution,” Liang said.

Rancher’s platform will particularly benefit from SUSE’s prominence in the Linux market, as there are few companies in the world that have mission-critical Linux expertise, and really only two—SUSE and Red Hat—that have built a large ecosystem around their distributions by certifying more than 10,000 applications.

At the same time, Rancher’s platform will continue to support all operating systems, from Red Hat Enterprise Linux to Canonical’s Ubuntu to Microsoft Windows, as well as managed Kubernetes services like Amazon EKS, Microsoft AKS and anywhere else “we can add value.”

SUSE does the same, Liang noted, with their cloud products supporting competitors’ operating systems quite well.

In recent years, one thing that’s surprised Liang is the success his startup has had selling to government agencies, which are not known to be early adopters of new technology. In that vein, the partnership with Fujitsu looks to drive further Kubernetes adoption in the U.K. government, he said.

Jason Daniels, Fujitsu’s CTO for its Law & Order portfolio, has turned to Rancher to meet the needs of the IT services giant’s government clients in the U.K., including intelligence and border enforcement organizations, across all levels of security classifications.

Fujitsu partners with all the major cloud players, Daniels told CRN, but its multi-cloud strategy focuses on providing customers a consistent development and operations experience that “abstracts away from the big boys while allowing consumption in a secure way.

“Customers are asking Fujitsu and any other big SI or managed services provider, we need an option that allows us to scale with our customers, abstracts us, and feels like you’re not putting us in a corner,” Daniels said.

Rancher enables Fujitsu to help those national security agencies “develop once, deploy into any security zone, and make sure the integrity of what they develop is correct.”

Fujitsu chose to lead those deals with Rancher’s Kubernetes management platform after conducting a competitive analysis looking at security options, developer SDKs and automation, Daniels said.

“It’s very different to an OpenShift or VMware perspective in the flexibility it offers you,” he said. “We felt Rancher was the tool that enabled us to commoditize the Kubernetes space.”