Novell Loses Another Open-Source Aficionado

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-05-09

Novell Loses Another Open-Source Aficionado

As a raft of senior executives leave Novell to pursue other interests, the company is reiterating its commitment to embracing Linux across its entire product line.

That response follows news that Richard Seibt, the former president of SuSE Linux AG, which Novell Inc. acquired in early 2004, has resigned from his current position as president of Novell EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

But Seibts resignation brings to three the number of senior executives that have left the Waltham, Mass., company in recent months, and interestingly, all three were players in the companys decision to embrace Linux and open source across its products and service lines.

In a short statement posted to its Web site Monday, Novell confirmed Seibts resignation and said his duties would be assumed by Ron Hovsepian, the companys president of worldwide field operations, until a replacement is found.

Seibt could not be reached for comment.

Novell chairman and CEO Jack Messman said in a statement that he would "like to thank Richard for his contributions to Novell, especially in the transition and integration of the SuSE Linux business. We wish him well in his future endeavors."

Sources close to the company told eWEEK that Seibt had become increasingly unhappy and disillusioned at Novell after its acquisition of SuSE Linux and even more so after the departures of vice chairman Chris Stone last November and of chief technology officer Alan Nugent this March, both of whom were pivotal players in the companys decision to embrace Linux and open source across all of its products and services.

"Novell seems to be ridding itself of all SuSE DNA," one source told eWEEK. But while Novell spokesman Kevan Barney declined to specifically comment on that, he did affirm the companys commitment to Linux and open source, "which remains very much our future."

Asked if there was any relationship between the three executive resignations, Barney said there was not and that this "is the way things happen in business."

Bruce Lowry, another Novell spokesman, who is based in San Francisco, also pointed out that Seibt had "moved out of a SuSE Linux line role the day of the acquisition."

"The guy who was running the SuSE Linux engineering and product group, Markus Rex, is still there," Lowry said. "Seibt was president of Novell EMEA, running the sales and consulting organization for that region."

Next Page: Weakening Novells open-source commitment?


Stacey Quandt, an analyst at the Robert Frances Group, agreed, saying Seibt was an IBM veteran and was brought in when IBM, Intel Corp. and others were funding SuSE as a private company. In fact, the acquisition of SuSE by Novell "brought SuSE much-needed cash to expand its business and credibility to Novell in the open-source marketplace," she said.

"Subsequent to Novell buying SuSE, Seibt went on to head Novell EMEA. His departure is unlikely to have a material effect on Novell/SuSE," Quandt said.

But some in the open-source and Linux community are concerned about the loss of three key Linux executives in a relatively short time frame. Stone, who was an executive at Novell since March 2002, is regarded as the primary force behind the companys push into Linux and open-source software, as well as its acquisitions of Ximian Inc. and SuSE Linux.

Some say Stones departure weakened Novells open-source commitment. "I was very disappointed to see Chris leave. It seems that [Novell chairman and CEO Jack] Messman will now take over Chris role as the person who is not only the public face of Novell, but to the open-source community," said a senior software executive involved in the open-source community, who requested anonymity.

"I think his loss is going to impact Novell tremendously. This is a community, and trust is gained, not just given. ... Jack [Messman] is not someone we really know," he said.

Click here for more on how Stones exit has affected Novell.

Stones departure was followed in March—just days before the kickoff of Novells annual BrainShare user conference—by the news that another key Linux sponsor, CTO Alan Nugent, was leaving the company.

Nugent then joined Computer Associates International Inc., where he is leading the companys Unicenter business.

eWEEK was the first to report in October 2002 that Novell was looking to embrace Linux across its product and service lines, based on an interview with Nugent, who was a pivotal player in the companys Linux and open-source strategy.

One source said Seibt is likely to take some time off before accepting another position, and that he might move away from a hands-on, day-to-day "operational"-type position toward a position such as a company chairman.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analy-sis.

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