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Novell Software Linux

Open Source Advocate VP Chris Stone Leaves Novell 172

SafeTinspector writes "ComputerWorld has a story regarding the sudden departure of Chris Stone, a respected open source advocate and the man often sited as the architect behind Novell's acquisistion of Ximian and SUSE as well as the recent open source orientation of Novell.
At the same time, Novell has a web site dedicated to dispelling the mistruths propogated in Microsoft's 'Get the Facts' campaign. What does all this mean to the future of Novell's Linux and Open Source strategy? Does any of this relate to the imminent release of Open Enterprise Server? Anybody?"
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Open Source Advocate VP Chris Stone Leaves Novell

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  • by brandonp ( 126 ) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nesretep.nodnarb'> on Saturday November 06, 2004 @11:37AM (#10741682) Homepage
    Novell's actions over the past year has really helped them gain some 'political capital' with me, and I believe the rest of the community. I really want to believe that they will keep making the right decisions, and they will keep working with the OpenSource Community.

    For example, I've been running RedHat servers for the past 6 years. I am happy with RedHat, even through a few problems here and there. But I'm planning to move toward Suse, because I'm so impressed with Novell's recent work.

    They can really change that momentum with the community quickly, by making the wrong decisions. So I really really hope this doesn't mean a change in what they plan to do in the future.

    Brandon Petersen
    Get FireFox! []
    • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @11:51AM (#10741739) Homepage Journal
      Dude, the word 'political' has no 'u's in it.

      Oh, wait, I read "They got 'Political' with Capital U's." n/m.

    • I'm not sure I understand.
      RedHat has done quite a bit of good over a decade. I'll go out on a limb and say they've done more than any single distributer. And you want to leave them not for technical merrit, but because another company GPL'd ximain connecter and yast? How about the companies Red Hat has recently bought. Netscape Directory, Sistina's GFS or 'stateless linux' on the horizon. I could put together a huge list of software RedHat GPL'd why is SuSE more deserving of "political capitol" than the g

      • RedHat was founded in 1993. SuSE was founded in 1992. Novell was founded in 1983.

        The point is that from a technical prospective the differences between SuSE and RedHat are minor except to the most sophisticated of users. From the angle of experience in the Linux business again RedHat and SuSE are about the same. From the angle of experience supporting a very large customer base ranging from small to large businesses Novell trumps RedHat hands down.

        In the end the battle for Linux (and OSS in general) i
        • Novell was founded in 1983.

          Are you quite sure of that? I wasn't a customer of theirs before then, but I could have sworn I heard about them in the CP/M days.

          I've got to say, I have a great deal of respect for Novell for many reasons, not the least of which was that they were the first people to apply mainframe performance techniques like the elevator algorithm for disk access to cheap file servers.

          I've also got to hand it to them for getting out of hardware as soon as they understood that it really was
    • Unfortunately, Novell doesn't have a very good history of making good decisions by itself. Remember that Novell was about to die before they brought in Stone to change things.

      The fact of the matter is, Novell has killed EVERYTHING it has ever touched. Everything. WordPerfect - All but Dead. OpenDoc - Dead. USL/Unixware - Dead. Etc.. etc.. etc..

      I was rightly concerned when Novell bought Ximian, and even more concerned when they bought SuSE. Apart from the utter stupidity of an american company runni
      • Damn right. Novell goes on these $$$ campaigns to embrace new ideas all the time, but nothing good ever come out of it. To say this company can't change with time is an understatement. Novell has been out of sync with the rest of the industry since the beginning of the dot-com boom.

      • I think it's a bit of a stretch to blame Novell for the demise of WP or OpenDoc. WP was in Microsoft's cross-hairs from the beginning, and it's impressive how long they stayed in business. OpenDoc's failure can be attributed mostly to Apple losing interest in it, and developers following suit.

        • OpenDoc was a very viable product, and Novell was charged with porting it to Windows, something they never actually did (well, at least they never finished it). The fact that OpenDoc wouldn't run on the majority platform killed it, thus Novell was directly responsible for OD's death.

          Apple and IBM gave up the ghost after it became obvious Novell would not complete it's side of the deal.

          As for WordPerfect, Novell sat on their laurels with the product and did almost NOTHING to improve it once they owned it.
  • Since being aquired, I've heard nothing about Evolution. What gives?
  • Kicked Out? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BisonHoof ( 810891 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @11:43AM (#10741711)
    He may have been told where the door was. ID=2564 [] Too bad.
    • Re:Kicked Out? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      These journalists, who probably will never hold more than one good job in their life, haven't a clue..

      "It is with some regret" is standard verbiage for a resignation letter where you want to ensure your employer that you are not trying to burn bridges just because you're leaving. When this comes in a PR tweaked press release it is even more suspect. If Novell had just fired him, I don't think that they would have made it look like a resignation (which this is made to look like). Resignations are almost nev
  • by Sunkist ( 468741 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @11:52AM (#10741744) Homepage

    Get [] help [] somewhere [].

    ...Chris Stone, a respected open source advocate and the man often sited...

    tr.v. sited, siting, sites
    To situate or locate on a site: sited the power plant by the river.

    tr.v. cited, citing, cites
    To quote as an authority or example.

    Do it now, before it's too late [].

    • Phone etiquettely core-wrecked, I add-mint two know more than a mine are spelling error. There are far worse offences to commit in this world, and when the intent is to spread information and that mission has been successful, then I think it should be let pass.
  • by scupper ( 687418 ) * on Saturday November 06, 2004 @11:57AM (#10741761) Homepage pe=businessNews&storyID=6727589 []
    "Software maker Novell Inc.'s stock (NOVL.O: Quote [], Profile [], Research []) fell 4.5 percent after the company announced the departure of Chris Stone, its vice chairman"
  • by xtermin8 ( 719661 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @12:00PM (#10741774)
    "Mr. Stone was instrumental in pushing Novell toward a strategy of capturing value from open-source software, as opposed to other members of management maybe more inclined toward giving away Linux to fuel demand for [Novell's] other offerings" As a potential user, and not a stockholder, his leaving doesn't sound like bad news. He pushed a Red Hat-like strategy vs IBM style strategy? "Respected open-source advocate?" Sounds like he was a businessman making business decisions.
    • He pushed a Red Hat-like strategy vs IBM style strategy? "Respected open-source advocate?" Sounds like he was a businessman making business decisions.

      And that is bad ... how ? RedHat have been making business decision that made them profitable, and all the while they continue to contribute massively to OSS. SuSE, er, Novell have been going in the same direction (continued work on Gnome and Mono, open-sourcing YaST, etc). I'm very much happy with both company's direction.

    • I am the owner of a small open-source driven business. I will tell you that business is all about capturing value in any way you can. Indeed, both IBM and RedHat have value-capturing strategies (they do this differnetly, btw).

      RedHat's strategy has been to capture value by allowing free redistribution of all the software on their distributions and then sell support services. I.e. they give away free beer for their other offerings. RHEL is indeed more a package of services than a package of software.

  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Saturday November 06, 2004 @12:05PM (#10741792) Homepage Journal
    Folks, take a few deep breaths.

    Novell is a large company. Not as large as MS (few are!) but not some little two person shop either. That one person left, even from a senior position, does not mean the sky is falling.

    Internal politics, didn't like the traffic in Waltham (where Novell is now HQ'd), really did leave to "pursue other opportunities", doesn't matter. The company has set a course, invested considerable resources, indeed likely staked it's future on this: No one person leaving is going to have a huge effect.

    As much as folks invest in the cult of personality Linux wouldn't come to a screeching halt without Torvalds, MS wouldn't suddenly shut down sans Gates or Ballmer, Apple would still soldier on absent Jobs, etc. Sure there may be different nuances but honestly, does anyone seriously expect the loss of a VP to completely change over a company?

    Novell has reinvented itself as a Linux shop. They've expended huge amounts of effort, plus their dwindling capitol, on making this transition. They've promised their investors, sold their customers, rearranged their products and development. While it's unfortunate Stone is leaving there is no shortage of folks ready to step into his position (heck, he's stepped in & out of it several times!)

    My take-away from this? There is a heatlthy enterprise Linux market with employment opportunities for tech managers on the vendor-end. Right now I bet there are more then a few resumes beiong spiffed up at IBM, Red Hat, and even MS (SCO need not apply.)

    • by dodgy_knickers ( 793417 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @12:40PM (#10741912)
      The company has set a course, invested considerable resources, indeed likely staked it's future on this: No one person leaving is going to have a huge effect.
      This is a non sequitur. Your assumption is that every person in the company contributes equally to the direction of the company. In fact, most companies are held together by surprisingly few people. The rest look to those key personalities for their direction.

      If a highly influential leader departs Novell, and those left in his wake have different ideas, those ideas will gain traction because the most powerfull advocate for the status quo has disappeared. I've seen this happen. It's natural. Even on individual engineering projects the first thing many coders want to do when picking up a software project left behind by someone else is challenge the design premises and take the codebase in a new direction. It works the same way in management, only the "codebase" is the company.

      The sky is probably not falling. But we cannot say conclusively that it is not falling based solely on the fact that Novell is a big company.


    • by Anonymous Coward

      The difference in this case, is the tech community
      has a mature understanding of where apple, microsoft, and even linux are heading both from social and technical perspectives.

      with novell, the picture is a little less clear. who -really- architected novell's recent shift? assuming one person had the most influence, if -that- person bailed, would novell keep their current course or deviate again? what if -that person- was chris stone, as some speculate?

    • Internal politics, didn't like the traffic in Waltham (where Novell is now HQ'd), really did leave to "pursue other opportunities", doesn't matter.

      Chris Stone said that "it is with some regret" that he is leaving and he got a big severance package. That doesn't sound like it was an amicable parting.

      As much as folks invest in the cult of personality Linux wouldn't come to a screeching halt without Torvalds,

      In this case, it's Wall Street and customers that may have invested millions that are practicing
    • by NutscrapeSucks ( 446616 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @01:01PM (#10741990)
      > Novell has reinvented itself as a Linux shop.

      Funny that you put this in the past tense, as if a bunch of promised vaporware is reality or something.

      Novell's main source of revenue comes from NetWare-based products. They bought a money-losing SuSE, but haven't done much to reposition it or sell it to their current customer base, yet. They bought Ximain, but haven't articulated any clear plan for the "desktop" or developer tools (Mono). They haven't even put the SuSE (KDE) people and the Ximain people on the same page.

      I only say this because Novell has a history of schizophrenic strategy changes every few years. They might become a "Linux Shop" in the future, but I wouldn't count these chickens before they hatch.
      • They bought a money-losing SuSE, but haven't done much to reposition it or sell it to their current customer base, yet.

        Interested to find out where you got that information given SuSE were a private company at the time Novell bought them. Indeed they were anticipated as having a turnover of $35-40 million with a staff base of around 400, so if they were loss making I doubt it was by anything significant. Furthermore, the aquisition wasn't expected to immediatly impact on Novell's figures so I suspect the

    • Mayby some view working in buisness the same way you build boats, or hobbies.

      Once youve fixed up one nice old boat (Novell), its a job well done. Time to seek another fixer upper boat! Or even build your own from scratch!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2004 @12:28PM (#10741869)
    I worked with Chris Stone at his startup company tilion. I was never really impressed by Stone and here's why.

    We spent 2 years putting together a fancy XML based web application for inventory tracking at Stone's Tilion web startup company in Maynard. We went, burned, through about 26 million. The sales people couldn't sell the Tilion product at all. Nobody wanted it. Stone desperately tried to retool the product several times by adding in other third party software. We just ended up spending more money on a more expensive product that still nobody wanted! Eventually the investors showed up one day and pulled the plug on the company.

    I followed his path for awhile after he left Tilion for Novell. He seemed to be doing the exact same thing he did at Tilion his failed startup: buying up third party software and mashing it all together. My guess is the same exact thing happened at Novell which happened at Tilion: a lot of money was spent and sales didn't increase -- a practice which is discouraged in the corporate world.

    In conclusion, lately I have been seeing Stone as the Al Gore of software executives. Just because he claims to have 'invented' CORBA doesn't necessarily mean he is a good business leader. He is a decent guy but just not a great leader.
    • Dude, chances are only 1 in 10 that any new company is going to make it. Dissing Stone because his dot-com failed is neither insightful nor interesting. I've started three companies and worked for four more. I've seen good times and I've seen bad. So Tilion didn't make it. Big deal.

      How about giving us some perspective on the man? Was he technically astute? Did the product work? Was it cleverly designed? Was he able to motivate people and get them excited? Was Tilion a good place to work, or a shi
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 06, 2004 @01:02PM (#10741996)
        If you know the answers, share them, please. Otherwise you are indistinguishable from some random troll who happens to know somebody who knew somebody who worked at Tilion, or something.

        To dispel the troll myth let me put it this way, Stone was in my cubicle once a week to review things. Was he a good motivator? yes. Was he technically astute? no. He was good at knowing current buzzwords in the industry like 'XML database' but he lacked the technical ability to see how useful the buzzword was. Was the company fun to work at? Not really. The engineers never really knew the direction of the final product. The company had a feeling to it like it was being run by old IBM exec's, which was weird for a startup.
        • I also worked closely with Chris Stone the first time he was at Novell, (before we was asked to "Pursue Other Interests" in 1997 when Eric Schmit came on board.

          Was he technically astute - No, he just knows buzzwords

          He tended to be a typical salesperson - Political, He was careful to make himself look good at the expense of the company.

          Just my 2 cents. (Just don't ask me what it was like to work with Jeff Merkey -- YUCK)
      • How about giving us some perspective on the man? Was he technically astute? Did the product work? Was it cleverly designed?

        None of these things matter if no one wants the product in the first place.
        • Lots of people don't want perfectly good and useful products, for reasons that aren't always clear, even to marketing geniuses. The fact that nobody wanted the product says very little about Stone. And, the fact that he scrambled to try to save his company when it turned out that people didn't want his product is laudable, not laughable.

        • None of these things matter if no one wants the product in the first place.

          But that by itself doesn't say much. Did the product do something nobody needed? Or did the leadership and sales force fail to communicate what the product could do for their customers? Each situation implies slightly different character traits in leadership.
    • by Pros_n_Cons ( 535669 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @01:30PM (#10742086)
      I was just going to bring this up. I follow the boards on stock forums, and investers seem nervous. This is the guy who was brought in pushing for Linux a couple years ago, now he just up and leaves one day? This is apparently what happened at Tilion it seemed fine then he left and shocked everyone. Also people on the board say many exec's at Novell have been leaving, is this also true? All the news seems bad things like they sold 20,000 subscriptions, but 10,000 of that was to one company.
      RedHat is well embedded in the "sure I'll pay for linux" market. Its a tough nut to crack for anyone. I just can't see Novell taking over RH on Linux, RH just plays the game so well in a decade of working with a spazz community the only two real screw up's ppl have flailed their arms at them for are "killing the desktop" and "a bad GCC". One hell of a track record for a company who is surrounded by an emotional community.
      • ...RedHat is well embedded in the "sure I'll pay for linux" market. Its a tough nut to crack for anyone. I just can't see Novell taking over RH on Linux...

        Possibly not in the US, quite possibly elsewhere, and nearly certainly in Germany.
        • and nearly certainly in Germany

          Didn't red hat win an account out there earlier this year for the second largest IP carrier in Germany? Also Red Hat's European Headquarters is in Munich, and the CEO was saying this week they plan to make an even bigger push in Europe because the market in the US isn't making a large shift yet.

          I hear over and over RedHat rules the US but its not big in Europe. Is there any facts out there supporting this claim, or do we just assume SuSE was born in germany therefore ever
    • Eventually the investors showed up one day and pulled the plug on the company.

      Sadly, the investors showed up with $26 million and proceeded to steer the company in a ludicrous direction.

      That's why the company failed. Was Chris there? Yes. Was he steering? He wasn't allowed to once the investors came in. Once the investors stepped in, the direction of the company was changed in order to take the company to IPO. Business principles (like "do we have a sellable product?") were made less important, to
    • Wouldn't that be the George W. Bush of software executives? He has ruined many businesses.

      Al Gore helped fund ARPA [] "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."
    • Among the attempts to give the communications world a sensible application-layer infrastructure, I count CORBA as one of the most spectacular failures - an overcomplex, underspecified monster that still has thousands of engineers trapped in its intricacies.
      It takes a special kind of mind to love CORBA.
  • Is "mistruths" even a word? doesn't think so.

    *insert a rant about writing clearly here.*

  • It's interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @01:00PM (#10741989) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of when Richard Garriott left Ultima Online...As I recall there was some controversy as to how voluntary his departure in that situation was, as well. I think it's completely safe to say also that UO was never the same afterwards...although from memory Garriott's involvement had only been sporadic for about a year before he finally left. UO has been going down hill for a long time,'s why the freeshard scene is as big as it is. Really pissed me off when I read EA's TOS for the Sims Online, specifically prohibiting freeshards. Makes me wish I could write to the company and say to them that if they weren't such utterly mindless, incompetent, creatively-devoid, cash-fixated drones, they might have been able to run UO's official shards in a half-intelligent manner...which would have meant that people wouldn't have had any REASON to start their own shards. Running an MMORPG is no small feat...I'm sure many of the people running indie shards now would glady have not bothered if EA's shards were still worth playing. Of course now that I think about most likely isn't the live team's fault...they've most probably got marketing idiots tying their hands about what they can and can't do. To me, associating marketing people with the live team of an MMORPG is like what Sun Tzu said about needing to keep a king away from a general during a war. The king might have authority, but in many cases was utterly clueless about warfare in particular.

    (Now back to the topic ;)) Contrary to an earlier post on this topic, I believe that given an individual in question being sufficiently creative/instrumental, the loss of a single person *can* be a big deal to a project. People have a tendency to develop their own logical frameworks, which others can have a very difficult time understanding. You take away the frame of mind and emotion that was responsible for the inception of a project, and there are going to be ramifications, even if said project continues.

    It will be interesting to see how much of a course change results in Chris Stone's having left Novell. If it's true that SUSE are starting to take over the company, I can't see that as being a good thing...I will admit I don't know all that much about SUSE as a company, but virtually all of what I have read about their attitude I haven't liked...especially the debacle about YaST before Novell decided to open it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In my company when a top executive or manager leaves suddenly it's not always a performance or political issue. On more than one occasion it's been because the manager was caught boinking a directly-reporting employee. My point is the public doesn't (and possibly won't) know the details. As such the better question to ask is, how will Novell do without him? If one company relies so heavily on one executive, then the company may not be all that stable to begin with.

  • Here is a thought (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Instead of speculating wildly about all the myriad of bizzare reasons that Chris Stone might have possibly left novell/been replaced by a pod person why don't you just ask Chris Stone why he left?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    After claiming they want to move to a more Service oriented model [], Novell has lost (will lose, has it come out yet?) their VP of Worldwide Services, Bob Couture. Now they lose Chris Stone and the issue has reportedly has something to do with his management style with regards to their Open Source developers.

    There is a culture war underway between the products side of the house and the services side. This is the beginning of much restructuring at the big red N house...
  • Over the years, Novell has had just four CEOs. I can't count the number of vice presidents/vice somethings they've hired that had intentions of ruling the Novell world. They read like the who's who in business.

    The acquisitions were pretty good, although Novell's not known for integrating their acquisitions very well-- if at all given they let Unix slip from their fingers at a crucial time.

    Novell has one of the strictest hierarchies in the business world. That hasn't changed, and likely never will until th
  • by auzy ( 680819 ) on Saturday November 06, 2004 @07:56PM (#10743861)
    Sounds like computerworld really needed a story honestly. An employee leaving doesn't always mean because they diss the company.. In fact, if you read the article, they dont even interview him to get the facts straight.

    Sadly, I hope this form of media reports, based on jumping to conclusions isn't the future of journelism

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"