SUSE Linux Co-Founder Leaves Novell

Hubert Mantel becomes the latest member of SUSE senior staff to leave the Linux company, causing analysts to question the distribution's future.

SUSE Linux co-founder Hubert Mantel announced his resignation from Novell Inc. via e-mail to friends and business associates on one of the SUSE mailing lists Tuesday.

Mantel, chief maintainer of the SUSE Linux kernel, said in his brief note that he could no longer work for the company.

"This is no longer the company I founded 13 years ago," Mantel wrote, in an explanation of his departure.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about management changes at Novell.

In what could be seen as a jab at Novells recent decision to make GNOME the default desktop interface for its enterprise Linuxes—SLES (SUSE Enterprise Linux Server) and NLD (Novell Linux Desktop)—Mandel ended his e-mail, "Im very confident the Novell management will find a competent successor very quickly. After all, there are lots of extremely skilled people over there in the Ximian division."

Ximian, before being acquired by Novell, created GNOME.

And, indeed, Gordon Haff, senior analyst for Illuminata Inc., observed, "The Ximian folks seem to have integrated well into Novell; SUSE much less so."

Still, "Its always hard to know the reasons behind these things. Its indisputable that being part of Novell is far different from having your own small German Linux distributor," Haff said.

Dan Kusnetzky, IDCs vice president for system software, said, "I get the impression that Novell believes that it understands how to address the needs of enterprises and that its approach is not consistent with that preferred by these former SUSE executives."

Mandel is only the most recent of several SUSEs senior staffers to leave Novell since the company acquired SUSE in January 2004.

Last month, Novell SUSE European channel executive Petra Heinrich resigned to take a new position at Open-Xchange, an open-source e-mail company based in Germany. Former Novell European area executive and former SUSE President Richard Seibt left Novell in May.

Stacey Quandt, research director for Aberdeen Group Inc., said this particular departure is cause for concern.

"Historically, [SUSE] has had strong technical leadership and a key indicator of change would be the departure of core members of the engineering staff," Quandt said.

Illuminatas Haff, though, said he isnt that concerned about the migration of senior SUSE employees from Novell. "Im not sure that SUSE departures [by themselves] mean much at this point."

"Novells success—or not—in Linux and open source have little to do with some personnel at what was once a small, largely regional Linux distributor. In a sense, what they bought was more of a brand and a market position. The concern isnt that theyve failed to hold SUSE together but that they havent yet taken it to the next level," Haff said.

Novell, beset by disappointed stockholders, has recently announced personnel cuts and management changes.

/zimages/6/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.