Linux Foundation Borrows Novell’s Markus Rex for CTO Position

In the search for a new chief technology officer, The Linux Foundation (LF) has nabbed Markus Rex, a long-time Linux executive from Suse Linux and, more recently, Novell.

While Rex will be working for the Linux Foundation, technically he’s only on loan to the non-profit organization that’s dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux. He will return to Novell at the end of 2008. Rex has been an advocate of Linux standardization throughout his career, and he brings strong technical leadership to the CTO position.

“We drew up a job description and quickly realized just how small a pool there was of ideal candidates,” Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, told LinuxInsider. “Markus is one of a handful of people in the world qualified for this job.”

The CTO Task List

As The Linux Foundation’s CTO, Rex will help drive new standardization and technical initiatives around Linux and promote Linux adoption more broadly. More specifically, he’ll lead all technical efforts, including the Linux Standard Base (LSB) and the Open Printing workgroup. He will also be the primary technical interface to LF members and the LF’s Technical Advisory Board who represent the kernel community.

The Linux Foundation has worked closely with Rex over the last three years, Zemlin noted. Rex was a board member of the Free Standards Group and The Linux Foundation and was already very closely involved with the Linux Standard Base (LSB).

The previous LF CTO, Ian Murdock, who was one of the founders of Debian Linux, left LF to join Sun Microsystems in March.

Rex comes to The Linux Foundation with a strong history of Linux product management and strategy. Most recently, he’s been in vice president roles at Novell, working in services strategy and managing Suse Linux efforts. Prior to Novell’s 2004 acquisition of Suse Linux, Rex served as Suse Linux’s head of development as well as vice president of research and development, and he oversaw Suse’s growth from 15 engineers in 1999 to more than 200 in 2004.

The Fine Print

So what’s the deal with the so-called “loan?”

Zemlin first approached Rex and Novell with this idea. Rex, he said, was clearly a good fit for the LF CTO job, though this wasn’t a snap decision for Novell.

“We’re strong believers in the importance of standardization for the success of Linux moving forward. At the same time, we didn’t want to lose an executive with the Linux know-how of Markus,” Bruce Lowry, Novell’s director of global public relations, told LinuxInsider.

“So after discussions within the Novell senior executive staff, including CEO Ron Hovsepian, we reached the decision that ‘loaning’ Markus to the LF was a great approach,” he added.

As as part of the deal, The Linux Foundation gets an “extremely well-qualified senior executive, without having to pay his salary — an important consideration for a non-profit like the LF — and Markus will continue to work on issues of importance to Novell,” Lowry noted.

In addition, Novell hopes that other commercial organizations will be willing to offer up their talent to The Linux Foundation in the future.

“We felt it was a win on multiple levels,” Lowry said.

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