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Layoffs and CEO Resignation At OSDL 158

Posted by kdawson
from the linus-is-ok-though dept.
lisah writes "Big changes are afoot at Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) with today's surprise announcement of the departure of CEO Stuart Cohen and the layoff of nine other employees. Details are still emerging about what exactly this means for OSDL but according to a preliminary announcement, Cohen is 'leaving to pursue other open source opportunities' and OSDL is 'refocusing the scope of [their] work to better align resources with [their] revenues...'" The article also mentions the last year's layoff at OSDL.
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Layoffs and CEO Resignation At OSDL

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    They'll be doing nothing?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by DietCoke (139072)
      Nothing is *something*. As a result, it requires proper budgeting, processes, allocations and mission statements.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I guess they never found the right "?" that would lead to "profit!"
    • OSDL is a non-profit organization.
      • by FyreFiend (81607)
        Unfortunately, not by design
      • by queequeg1 (180099)
        "non-profit" doesn't mean that don't have to make net income. All going concerns must make a profit. Even the most charitable of non-profits will require an annual net operating income of 3-4 percent at a minimum. Otherwise, small fluctuations in revenue result in layoffs (the employees are not themselves non-profit). The issue is whether that profit benefits owners (i.e. shareholders) or the public (by growing the concern and furthering its purpose).
  • Ouch. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deadguy2322 (761832) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:32PM (#17104716)
    Merry Christmas! This year we're giving you a pink slip!
    • Yeah, really. I haven't figured out what the deal is with the yearly rash of large-scale layoffs from various companies in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I *really* love the ones where a plant closes with no notice on the day before Thanksgiving, with a whopping 2 weeks severance for people who've worked their entire lives there but were e.g. contractors so had no pension.

      Obviuosly Scrooge owns a lot more companies than anyone realized. I really should start making a formal blacklist of co
      • Happened JUST that way with my former employer Ikadega; We all got pink slips just before Thanksgiving.
      • by Tet (2721)
        I haven't figured out what the deal is with the yearly rash of large-scale layoffs from various companies in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

        In the UK financial sector, at least, January is bonus time. Hence December frequently sees a round of redundancies, which are often cheaper than paying the bonuses...

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2006 @10:57PM (#17124254) Homepage Journal
      The CEO who left had his head handed to him by the membership, and if they didn't actually tell him to go, staying would not have been very pleasant. Endorsing the Novell thing wasn't too smart, and they were very upset. And he's said to have promoted the GPL3 story to Forbes, which also pissed off the membership tremendously. Other than that, Oracle won't join (Wim said he feels that OSDL doesn't operate in Linux' best interest, which I think is correct), Andrew Morton walked out and went to work for Google, and OSDL can't get enough members to stay afloat financially.

      Let's cross our fingers and hope that OSDL goes in a better direction now.

      I don't know anything about the other laid-off folks and suspect they were innocent bystanders.

      Bruce

  • Little revenue obtained making free software? The single biggest attraction of open source is that as a big corporation, you can leech the efforts of thousands of unpaid but experienced contractors and never once feel the need to give back. (e.g., Thanks Apache!) So...it isn't exactly surprising that OSDL isn't exactly raking in the dough.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:41PM (#17104822) Homepage
      The single biggest attraction of open source is that as a big corporation, you can leech the efforts of thousands of unpaid but experienced contractors and never once feel the need to give back. (e.g., Thanks Apache!)

      Eh? There have been numerous times where I've grabbed some nice-free Apache software and used it for my purposes. Tomcat, xerces, xalan, jakarta, and a bunch of other things.

      Apache is giving back by providing us with a huge amount of useable software that we're allowed to use to solve our own problems. Much of it has solved some of the tedious bits one would rather not have to write onesself.

      How exactly is Apache leaching off developers other than being a central point where OSS developed code can be found by all? (Like that's a bad thing or something.)

      (I'm specifically curious about this, I've always thought Apache was a good netizen and a place to get some useful stuff.)

      Cheers
      • I think he is quoting the big corporation there:

        Apache Foundation: Here you go, one webserver with java servlet engine and xml parser on the side.
        Big Corporation: Thanks Apache!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205)
        How exactly is Apache leaching off developers other than being a central point where OSS developed code can be found by all?
        I think you missed my point: Apache isn't itself the leech. The multibillion dollar oil company that runs Apache all over the place and hasn't ever contributed a cent to the Apache project is.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by aevans (933829)
          What about the other multibillion dollar oil company that runs Apache and has contributed money and code to the Apache project, but hasn't contributed a cent to Linux kernel development (which the first multibillion dollar oil company happens to host a high bandwidth mirror of, and has contributed bug reports to?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by warpSpeed (67927)
          ...Apache isn't itself the leech. The multibillion dollar oil company that runs Apache all over the place and hasn't ever contributed a cent to the Apache project is.

          Where does this monitary obligation come from? The license under which Apache is distributed under spells out the responsibilities of the user who downloads the software. If the Apache creators and maintainers wanted money, the should have spelled it out in the license.

          The fact that the these oil companies that you speak of have "multibi

          • Where does this monitary obligation come from?

            Obligation does not need to be a legal entity. There is the whole concept of community participation.

            Let's say there was a resource that was available in HUGE amounts, was free, and no one was obliged to conserve, reduce or become more efficient in use of that resource. If all of the large users of that resource continued to use this "free" resource, eventually it will begin to deplete or become of poorer quality or possibly become something where only

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by porl (932021)
              so you are saying that if too many people download the apache code then there will be less copies left for others?
          • You may be contractually permitted to eat 20lbs of food at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but if you do it, you're being leach.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dedazo (737510)
          Relying on the inherent goodness of humans (or corporations) is naive at best. You can't come up with this super-wonderful new "business model" wherein you give everything away and then sit there and pout when people don't behave the way you idealistically expected them to.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by toadlife (301863)
            "Relying on the inherent goodness of humans (or corporations) is naive at best."

            Yet, history has shown that if the project is good enough, the inherent goodness of humans is enough. Apache, XFree/Xorg and the BSDs may not be raking in mega-millions of dollars, but they keep on keeping on year after year.
            • Yet, history has shown that if the project is good enough, the inherent goodness of humans is enough. Apache, XFree/Xorg and the BSDs may not be raking in mega-millions of dollars, but they keep on keeping on year after year.

              History has shown no such thing. Many of the biggest contributors to those projects are paid. Either directly, like Keith Packard who was hired by SuSE and then Hpaq to work on XFree86/Xorg or indirectly like academics or users who "scratch an itch" for their employer's needs and then
              • Many of the biggest contributors to those projects are paid.

                I'd be interested to see some hard numbers for this. Take the amounts paid out to all contributors to a major project. Come up with some kind of estimate on the value of the contribution, even something as simple as lines of code. Now add up all the lines of code and then divide the total amount paid out by that number. You should have the average value of a line of code. It's all well and good that the big stars of a project get paid decent money, but they're paid that money because tons of others ju

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Look on the bright side. If the multibillion dollar oil company uses apache, it means its business partners don't *have* to use IE7 to talk to it, and *you* don't have to either, in order to talk to them. More people use free software, so that's a good thing overall.
        • by TheCabal (215908)
          Guess they shouldn't be giving the software away, eh?
        • by gstoddart (321705)
          I think you missed my point: Apache isn't itself the leech. The multibillion dollar oil company that runs Apache all over the place and hasn't ever contributed a cent to the Apache project is.

          Hmmm ... then you're right. I missed your point; my bad. =)

          Cheers
        • by Zapman (2662) on Monday December 04, 2006 @05:39PM (#17105702)
          Leach?

          The promise of FOSS is that you get the source code to do what you want with it. No matter who you are. If you make changes, and distribute them (assuming the GPL), you have to distribute your code changes as well.

          They (your Oil Company) are taking the code, compiling it, and using it as it was intended. That's not leaching.

          The license cuts both ways. There's no requirement to pay for it. Whether your some kids in your garage, saturating your parents DSL line to upload data to youtube, or a multinational oil company saturating a bunch of OC-3 lines.

          Would it be 'nice' of them to contribute back? Sure. But we can't speak ill of them for not (Though I'd be willing to bet that there are a few code patches coming from said Multinational Oil).
        • by Tet (2721)
          Apache isn't itself the leech. The multibillion dollar oil company that runs Apache all over the place and hasn't ever contributed a cent to the Apache project is.

          Is it? When I worked for a multibillion pound megacorp, I used Apache extensively. It never once crossed my mind to make a donation to the Apache project. Why should it? The thing is, a web server is such a trivial piece of software to write. It just happened that someone else had already done it for me, so I didn't need to write it myself. I'm

      • by Psiren (6145)
        I think you misunderstood the original post. I believe the point he was making was corporations are using Apache left right and centre, but very few of them are giving anything back (bar bug reports, and probably not even much of that). They are harnessing the benefit of the developers work, and not having to pay anything for it. That's the nature of open source though. I'm not saying it's good or bad.
    • by Fnkmaster (89084)
      To quote from their website: "OSDL is a nonprofit organization that provides state-of-the-art computing and test facilities to developers around the world."

      So OSDL doesn't really have much of a business model other than "our members give us some money, and we use it to pay Linus Torvalds a salary".

      The fact that they aren't making lots of money is therefore not a failure of a business model, but the fact that they are a non-profit, with perhaps a poorly defined mission, that as a result has difficulty attrac
      • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:55PM (#17105034)
        The fact that they aren't making lots of money is therefore not a failure of a business model, but the fact that they are a non-profit, with perhaps a poorly defined mission, that as a result has difficulty attracting lots of sponsorship money...
        Non-profits need business models too, preferably built on the strength of a brand and/or the willingness of profitable businesses to build their own brands through them. For examples, see the United Way (tie-ins w/ the NFL, etc.), the Red Cross (sells blood with markup) and the Komen Foundation (tie-ins with every homemaker product ever invented).
    • by tcopeland (32225)
      > as a big corporation, you can leech the efforts of
      > thousands of unpaid but experienced contractors and
      > never once feel the need to give back. (e.g., Thanks Apache!)

      True, but an open source project doesn't take much to run - just a server and some bandwidth, and the bandwidth needs can be minimized via judicious mirroring [blogs.com].

      But I agree that corporations should support the developers of the open source projects they're using [pmdapplied.com].... +1 on that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NineNine (235196)
        True, but an open source project doesn't take much to run - just a server and some bandwidth, and the bandwidth needs can be minimized via judicious mirroring.

        Uuuh, ok. That's like saying that all you need to run a successful business is a cash register. If these projects are run like hobbies, and you don't expect any kind of widespread useage or support, then yeah, slap it up on a web server, and be done with it. If you want it to be successful, than it needs to be run the same as any other successful
    • "leech" is a highly perjorative term when you're talking about software that is, in fact, distributed for free.

      That said, even NPO's (non-profit organizations) have to pay salaries. If OSDL can't even do that (this is a 33% reduction in their paid staff), then it certainly seems like the business model is broken in some way, shape or form, or at very least not working the way it ought to.
  • by Lethyos (408045) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:34PM (#17104734) Journal

    ... refocusing the scope of [their] work to better align resources with [their] revenues ...

    Or to put it in English: “we are not making enough money and we have to cut back.”

    Reminds me of this one study I heard a while ago that found the more obfuscated and elaborate the wording is used by companies the worse their financial situations are. Very appropriate in this case.

    • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:43PM (#17104856)
      Correct, but they aren't supposed to make money. To quote from their website: "OSDL is a nonprofit organization that provides state-of-the-art computing and test facilities to developers around the world."

      Non-profit, ya see?
      • They have to cover their costs, so if they can't make $500,000 to cover the CEO and employees salaries + benefits they have to cut back.

        I've never understood how this is non-profit. The company doesn't profit and doesn't have investors. I guess that's the difference.

        Just like Mastercard is non-profit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by NineNine (235196)
          I've never understood how this is non-profit.

          At the end of the financial year, there is no profit to be paid out to the owners. It all goes back into the company. Realistically, in this case, you're right... a lot of it goes to salaries. Although, you can't claim to be a "non-profit" company, and pay the CEO a kajillion dollars. Once you're a non-profit, then the IRS watches closely to make sure that people are paid reasonable amounts. You can't use it as a tax loophole (otherwise, every company on th
          • by bunions (970377)
            > You can't use it as a tax loophole

            Sure you can. Visa and Kaiser-Permanente are both "nonprofit" organizations. Of course, you can't simply pay the CEO what would otherwise be the companies profit, instead you simply re-invest it into the company, as visa does, or buy the competition, like KP does.
          • I've never understood how this is non-profit.
            At the end of the financial year, there is no profit to be paid out to the owners. It all goes back into the company.

            True
             
             
            Realistically, in this case, you're right... a lot of it goes to salaries. Although, you can't claim to be a "non-profit" company, and pay the CEO a kajillion dollars.

            False. There are no limits to the salaries than can be paid to the employees of a non-profit. (Being the CEO or Chairman of a large charity can be quite lucrative.)
             
             
            Once you're a non-profit, then the IRS watches closely to make sure that people are paid reasonable amounts.

            False. The IRS doesn't scrutinize the return of any single non-profit than do any single individual or business.
             
             
            You can't use it as a tax loophole (otherwise, every company on the planet would be a "non-profit") company.
            Partly correct - non profits are chartered, and must operate within that charter. Theu can't be chartered unless they are a (generally speaking) charitable, social (fraternal), or educational organization.
        • "Non-profit" just means that their institutional objective is not to maximize profits at the expense of all else. They have another objective that (theoretically) overrides the desire to make more money.
        • by Fnkmaster (89084)
          See my other reply. I thought that was so obvious it wasn't worth saying. In any case, my post was a half-jest. And my point about it being a non-profit was really in response to all those whining about how Open Source companies have no business model - a non-profit doesn't generally have a profit-driven business model, they usually have some non-profit-driven goals and seek funding through any number of means (grants, donations or business activities) to further those goals.

          And clearly if uses of funds
      • by Tim C (15259)
        Correct, but they aren't supposed to make money.

        Non-profit is not the same as loss-making. Any profit that they do generate could simply be invested back into the business, eg by acquiring other companies, increasing their staff, etc.

        In fact, "non-profit" really just means "any money we do make won't be given away to shareholders/kept for ourselves or left in the bank".

        (Disclaimer: IANAE)
        • by Fnkmaster (89084)
          Yes, I realize that. The "not supposed to make money" thing was partially in jest, I didn't realize how seriously everybody would take it. My point was that a non-profit generally has a set of non profit-oriented goals and engage in a variety of means to raise funds to support expenses incurred in reaching that goal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by istartedi (132515)

      Some businessmen were born to "employ people", others to "utilize human resources". There are far too many of the latter; but we can't blame them totally. The other side of the equation is the worker who doesn't like the fact that he "works for them" and actually feels better being a "team member". Then there is the investor who probably doesn't buy companies that are "laying people off", but might be more interested in purchasing the stock of a company that is "engaging in refocusing the business and re

    • by kjart (941720)

      Speaking of which, what the hell is "I'm looking forward to forming a venture to explore open source joint development using best practices in collaboration and building communities." I'm certain that this somehow involves getting very drunk in the near term, but I'll be damned if I know how.

  • Spooky! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OriginalArlen (726444) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:38PM (#17104786)
    From this week's BOFH [theregister.co.uk]:

    I'm betting it says something about 'right-tasking', 'examining organisational structure' and identifying roles and the people best suited to them." "Yeah, sort of." "Then yes, they want to get rid of someone."
    • -- Everything I needed to know about life, I learnt from Blake's Seven
      I love your sig. Does it mean that you learned that really cool spaceships just fall into your lap whenever you need one?
      • by fostware (551290)
        Or just that you're constantly being twarted by a skanky ho in too much makeup?
      • It does mean that, but oh so much more... (Shamelessly ripped off from here [ox.ac.uk]):
        • Trust is only dangerous when you have to rely on it.
        • Reality is a dangerous concept.
        • There is no logical reason why aliens should be hairy.
        • I am not stupid, I'm not expendable, and I'm not going.
        • No good deed goes unpunished.
        • It is frequently easier to be honest when you have nothing to lose.
        • Civilization has always depended on courtesy rather than truth.
        • On Earth it is considered ill-mannered to kill yo
  • "Leaving to pursue other Open Source Opportunities" : he's sacked.

    "refocusing the scope of [their] work to better align resources with [their] revenues...'" : we've just realised that for all that we do, very little actually brings money in. This is a problem. So if it doesn't bring money in, it's either canned or changed such that it does.

    Not particularly nice if you work for OSDL, but it happens in business from time to time...
    • by Macrat (638047)
      Especially when their business plan was to hire Linus and make the world think they were Linux experts for contract work.
  • Or the phrase would have been "Wanted to spend more time with his family".
  • by warrior_s (881715)
    Did they let Linus go ?
    • by Knackered (311164)
      Oh, for goodness sake. RTFA. I know this is Slashdot, but this point was addressed in the second sentence of the article. No, I'm not going to tell you. Go and read the article yourself.
      • by psxman (925240)
        You don't even have to do *that*. You can just RTFD. (department)
      • The story is from the "linus-is-ok-though dept" as well, so it's even written in the summary if they would look :P
    • RTFA... Im just a lurker for the most part and I can even do that! Linus Torvalds, whose work on the Linux kernel is sponsored by OSDL, was not affected by the job cuts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by squiggleslash (241428) *

      Sadly yes. Word is they're tapping Theo DeRaadt to take over kernel development, but this will be a part time, unpaid, position. Overall management of the direction of Linux will be given to Avie Tevanian, late of Mac OS X fame.

      Also Alan Cox has announced he's leaving voluntarily to persue other interests. No replacement has been announced, though apparently Eric Raymond, Hans Reiser, and Kevin Warwick are being named as possible successors.

      Developing...

      (Note to mods: I'm going for +5 Funny, not -2 I

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:52PM (#17105002)
    think of them as being released to the public, free of charge
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm looking forward to forming a venture to explore open source joint development using best practices in collaboration and building communities.

    I'm looking forward to finding your ideas fascinating and would like to use best practice when subscribing to your newsletter. Also, my Bullshit-Bingo cards are printed, ready and waiting.

  • by Laser Lou (230648) on Monday December 04, 2006 @05:01PM (#17105124)
    Did Linus ask for another raise?
  • by TopSpin (753) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @05:01PM (#17105138) Journal
    OSDL is 'funded' by a collection of corporations. As far as I know they don't actually sell anything. So, either their funding was cut, or they have mismanaged themselves into a deficit. Which is it? Anyone actually know? I suppose their recent IP projects have led to high legal costs, but I'll bet someone reading /. knows the truth.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Look out, Slashdot "editors". Talk about a job that can be easily replaced with a script.
  • At least the CEO also leaves. Something went wrong...and they didn't put all the blame on some low workers who had nothing to do with the decision making, while the higher ranks were unaffected. I don't know if the CEO left voluntarily, but if he did, I commend him for that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jesterboy (106813)
      Personally, I'm wondering if Cohen's departure has anything to do with his position on the Novell/Microsoft deal [novell.com]? (look at the section labeled "Good for the Open Source Community")

      While I enjoy imaginations of Linus giving Stuart Cohen the metaphorical/physical boot, I think the realistic interpretation of "leaving to pursue other open source opportunities" means "huge bed of cash to land on from Novell/Microsoft deal". After all, work with Novell is still considered "open source" in letter if not spirit.
  • After a quick vote between stakeholders: ...

    CowboyNeal!
  • Wonderful timing, with the layoffs.
  • From TFA: OSDL also underwent a restructuring last year and laid off nine employees.

    The layoff command probably only takes a single-digit argument: le -9

  • by NineNine (235196) on Monday December 04, 2006 @06:02PM (#17106068)
    I'd like to take this opportunity, after countless Slashdot posts about "Everybody should know how computers work", that perhaps what would be more useful if everybody instead learned a bit about how business works. I think that the OSS community has pooh-poohed the importance of basic business knowledge long enough, as is obvious from the overwhelming non-success of OSS companies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TopSpin (753) *
      While you may have a point, it doesn't really apply in the case of OSDL. OSDL isn't a business in the sense of cost vs. revenue. It is a non-profit organization, funded by sponsors. So, unless the sponsors cut funding and/or OSDL mismanaged itself into a hole, this shouldn't be happening. The sponsors supply a budget and, assuming you have the ability to forecast costs with at least some competence, there should be no dramatic shortfalls.

      I'm confident the sponsors haven't cut funding or it would have be
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I'd like to take this opportunity, after countless Slashdot posts about "Everybody should know how computers work", that perhaps what would be more useful if everybody instead learned a bit about how business works. I think that the OSS community has pooh-poohed the importance of basic business knowledge long enough, as is obvious from the overwhelming non-success of OSS companies.

      The OSS community knows quite well how business works. Their failing is that they confuse a philosophy/belief system with busi

  • Maybe you can explain to the uninitiated, non-CEO-suckups outside U Know Where why it's such a disaster for a CEO to resign.

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau

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