Novell, SuSE CTO Part Ways

Novell’s SuSE Linux CTO is leaving the company, marking the second departure from its open source group in the past few months.

Novell has confirmed that Juergen Geck plans to depart at the end of the week. The departure was “mutually agreed upon and amicable,” according to Novell spokesperson Bruce Lowry.

“I don’t have details on what he’s doing next, but I have no reason to doubt what he’s reported to have told members of the media, which is that’s he interested in bringing the experience he gained in helping growing a company like SuSE to other smaller tech companies,” Lowry told LinuxInsider.

Executive Shake Out

Geck’s departure comes after SuSE co-founder Hubert Mantel’s November 2005 exit and in the midst of significant executive changes at the server software company.

Novell in early March hired a new executive to run its Linux and open source business unit and promoted two current executives. Roger Levy was named general manager of the Open Platform Solutions business unit. Levy replaced David Patrick, who Novell said is “pursuing interests outside” of the company.

Musical Chairs

In addition, Novell promoted Bill Hewitt, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, to president of Novell Asia-Pacific. Hewitt succeeded Rhonda O’Donnell, who assumed the newly created position of non-executive chairperson for Novell Asia-Pacific.

John Dragoon, vice president of global field marketing for Novell, was promoted to senior vice president and chief marketing officer, succeeding Hewitt.

“These appointments leverage the strength of a world-class development executive and two experienced Novell leaders,” said Novell President and COO Ron Hovsepian at the time of the transition.

Linux Execs Leave

High-level corporate shakeups aside, Mantel and Geck are not the only ones to leave Novell’s Linux camp. Richard Seibt resigned from his position as chief executive of SuSE last May, and SuSE channel chief Petra Heinrich quit Novell in July to join Open-Xchange.

Novell Linux strategy executives Chris Stone and Alan Nugent also left the company in the past two years. Former Ximian employees Nat Friedman, vice president of Linux desktop engineering, and Miguel d’Icaza, vice president for developer technologies, remain in the wake of the acquisition of that company.

What Do the Departures Mean?

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff doesn’t put SuSE departures into the same category as some of the executive level shakeups — and he’s not sure how much to read into the Geck departure beyond the typical post-acquisition culture clash.

“People do not typically leave companies if they are deliriously happy with their roles, but sometimes even people who are reasonably content with their jobs find better opportunities that come along,” Haff told LinuxInsider.

Haff, for one, is more concerned with the changes in the sales channel ranks of Novell, which he said indicates that Novell has not executed its business strategies well.

“There have been fairly massive changes at Novell in the sales area, which partly reflect poor operational results,” Haff noted. “But on the SuSE side it’s actually pretty natural for the founders and co-founders and senior level executives at start ups to not necessarily have a very good fit with a much larger company.”

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