SuSE and Novell: Personality friction or culture war?

SuSE and Novell: Personality friction or culture war?

Summary: Mantel is not going to be replaced well or easily.

The departure of two high-level SuSE contributors from Novell begs the question of whether this latest twist in the Novellization of SuSE is yet another personality clash, or an outright schism between the community-oriented SuSE heritage and the command-and-fumble corporate Novell culture.

If the apparent split in philosophy over the role of the KDE (SuSe preferred) user interface and GNOME (Ximian/Novell preferred) one points to a wider philosophical rupture then we can expect a general parade of developers out from the SuSE R&D ranks within Novell. Or maybe they will just keep taking the pay and stop working much.

Either way, that, of course, would be good news for Red Hat and Microsoft. And it could fuel the ongoing investor angst over whether Novell is recognizing the revenue potential from its Linux and open source strategies and investments. Novell has very little time left to show how the dollars and sense in its 2004 purchase of SuSE plays out.

Maybe Novell should cut bait while it can and sell SuSE (at a huge loss) to Sun, take the write off, and go back to the free directory and associated consulting business. That way Sun can assume the cultural schism management process (should be a core competency by now) and make a real go at Red Hat and IBM. Perhaps HP would be interested?

Novell seems to think it can replace SuSE kernel maven Hubert Mantel with any number of the Ximian knuckle-draggers. But I saw some of these folks in action at a basement gathering at a Los Angeles hotel during the recent Microsoft PDC, and I was not very impressed. Mantel is not going to be replaced well or easily, and Novell's management are smoking some dubious doobies to think otherwise.

Topic: Enterprise Software

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  • Blatant piece of FUD

    I can see the potential for some real fallout over the KDE vs. Gnome issue, but that last paragraph is pure FUD. The author doesn't even know who Novell is planning to tap to replace Mantel...maybe they will bring someone else in from the outside? His solution doesn't make sense in this context. Selling SUSE to Sun, HP or another doesn't solve the loss of Mantel, unless he agrees to come on board at that new owner and reclaim his role. Its just the FUD card being played. Novell has bet the ship on integrating its other products with its Linux offerings, and I don't see them letting the departure of Mantel sink the whole ship. They know which roles are critical to the success of the whole picture and will fill them appropriately.
  • Always happens

    Talented individual gets bought out and gets "stuck" in a bureaucratic hellhole. How many of us have had that "perfect" job in the past, only to "move on" and get stuck in a similar situation? I wish the guy luck, and if he could swallow his "pride" for a moment - I believe Mandriva would be interested . . .
    Roger Ramjet
  • Why is anyone surprised?

    I was dismayed when I heard the news of Novell takeover of SuSE. Novell's record did not bode well for the future of SuSE. Now what I dreaded is happening. SuSE is now in danger of facing extinction. As a user of SuSE since version 6.0, I am not exactly looking forward to switching to any other distribution including Red Hat.
  • This is why Novell is in trouble, and why Open Source worries me

    "Mantel is not going to be replaced well or easily, and Novell's management are smoking some dubious doobies to think otherwise.

    I cannot imagine a company being so poorly run that the departure of one or two individuals can cripple it. Well, actually, I can imagine it, I just can't picture it being a very sucessful company with or without that person.

    "If the apparent split in philosophy over the role of the KDE (SuSe preferred) user interface and GNOME (Ximian/Novell preferred) one points to a wider philosophical rupture then we can expect a general parade of developers out from the SuSE R&D ranks within Novell. Or maybe they will just keep taking the pay and stop working much."

    This seems to happen all too often within the Open Source "community", especially with GNOME/KDE, and Linux in general. A zillion years ago, when BSD had its internal problems a split, it lost a lot of mindshare. People were worried about placing their trust in a product where personality clashes or internal ideology can halt development or destroy a product completely.

    If I were someone making decisions for my organization (and I am) and I read that a personality clash or a "who's desktop environment is better" arguement is potentially able to bring down the entire development or support structure for a product, I'm not going to use that product, plain and simple. If Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer started bashing each other and threatening to split Microsoft because Gates wanted the Stonehenge XP background to be the default, and Ballmer wanted that desert dune picture, I'm running away from Microsoft products as fast as I can (granted, I have enough good reasons to leave their products...).

    This is why, for my *Nix needs, I will never. Never. NEVER use Linux. EVER. Linux is dominated by one person who often comes across as a very "my way or the highway" personality. The Linux "community" is gragmented into 300+ distributions, very few of which seem to be different in any conceivable way. Do I really want to place my bets on this situation? No way. If a bus hits Mr. Torvalds tomorrow, Linux will dissolve into a thousand pieces as the people scramble for power and prestige.

    There are lots of open source projects like this. Anything Dan Berstein touches is a good example. The guy writes amazingly awesome code. Too bad that he's kind of nutty, and doesn't play well with others. As good as qmail is, I'm worried that one day DJB will be hit by a bus.

    This is why I chose BSD. Yes, there are multiple BSDs, but they haven't split or fragmented in a while. They are run like corporations, just without the part where they get paid. No one in the BSD community is integral to the process. Sure, there are some sub-BSD-projects, but they all stay very close to the original source and are specifically addressed at meeting a particular need, as opposed to 300+ Linux's that all try to do the exact same thing. I would also be happy to use Open Solaris, since Sun is keeping a tight grip on things there it looks like. The LAMP stack is also good for these reasons. The teams seem to be well run and extremely professional. I am happy to put my trust into LAMP.

    But a product where an argument over a desktop environment can cause the split up of the development team, and possibly drag an entire company with it? No way will I ever trust them.

    Justin James
    • Maybe I'm mistaken

      But I'm not sure I'm getting your point because these statements seem contradictory:

      [quote]This is why, for my *Nix needs, I will never. Never. NEVER use Linux[/quote]


      [quote]I am happy to put my trust into LAMP[/quote]

      Isn't the 'L' in LAMP Linux?
      • You got me on that one...

        Yeah, you're right. I should have made that "-LAMP" or maybe just "AMP". Whenever I see "LAMP", my mind immediately thinks of the "AMP" parts and totally ignores the Linux end of it.

        That's one reason why I think a lot of people are rediculous about Linux. The "AMP" stack works just as well on BSD, Solaris, AIX, HPUX, etc. as it does on Linux. Heck, "AMP" can even be installed and run on Windows (Windows 98, even, if you're truly ambitious) and except for where the underlying OS impedes it, it does just as well as it does on *Nix.

        Justin James
    • Linus would be disappointed in your grammar.

      " opposed to 300+ Linux's..."

      The plural of Linux is Linices. <lol>
  • Eggs in the Red Hat basket

    There are two Linux distributions described as "commercial", Red Hat and SuSE. If SuSE (and Novell) fail, that leaves Red Hat.
    I wonder if that would have an effect on what Red Hat charges any company taking the software and services bundle.

    The investors criticizing Novell for not emphasizing open source enough may be assuming that such emphasis will allow Novell to lay off even more staff.
    My view, that does nothing for sales of products other than SuSE, and SuSE could lose people without encouragement, from cultural differences and because people don't like to be trapped in a failing company.

    So, unless another distribution obtains sufficient enterprise credibility, there's a good chance Linux becomes Red Hat only.
    Anton Philidor
    • Not if Novel sells SuSE

      and if that's the case then SuSE may have a chance to come back from the abyss. Personally Novel did more harm to SuSE than good and I wish SuSE would have stayed in Germany. At least there is was growing and doing better on the quality front than it is now. That's my opinion based on experience.

      Since Novel has gotten their mitts on SuSE they have managed to mangle it bad!
      Linux Advocate
      • And they do...

        I've bought SuSE retail boxes since 8.1.

        With OpenSuSE I still buy the retail box. Currently running 10.0 free download enhanced with APT. !0.0 retail box still sealed sitting on a shelf. I buy the distro to support the distro. If more people contributed $ for the value they are getting things will be great in the OSS world. I you are getting a percieved value from FOSS then it's only appropriate to give a little back.
        Tim Patterson
        • I think the prior post meant...

          ... that SuSE should be sold to another software company. Novell was said to have a damaging impact.

          I think that's very unlikely. In fact, Novell seems to be relying more on SuSE and less on its other products. Not a good strategy, to me.

          And IBM bought into Novell when the company bought SuSE. Probably as a counterpoise to Red Hat. I think IBM would be negative about a sale.

          And other investors are looking for more reliance on source rather than less. Probably because more people can be laid off. And then Novell will have no chance to develop or improve exisiting products to sell. Rule of reduction: if a company has a problem, lay off the people who might solve it.

          So SuSE lives and dies with Novell. Which is not an encouraging statement.
          Anton Philidor
          • You have that backwards, Anton

            <I>So SuSE lives and dies with Novell. Which is not an encouraging statement.</I>
            In reality, Novell will live or die with SUSE!
            Now that Novell has given SuSE totally over to the GPL and open source, sans proprietary bits, SuSE will continue to live on and prosper. There are more than enough competent German programmers to make sure that happens.
            The real question is: "How will Novell use Linux (SuSE) to its business advantage so Novell can prosper?" Messman has been schizophrenic about Linux, cursing it and the GPL one day and praising it the next. He doesn't have a clue about Linux, Open Source or the GPL. As long as Messman is calling the shots I don't see Novell doing anything but continuing its flaming downward spiral toward doom. If I didn't know better I'd think that Messman is secretly working for Microsoft. mmmm..... maybe he is. So far, his decisions couldn't have been any more favorable toward Microsoft if Gates himself had made them.
            The amazing thing is that Novell still has a sizable number of SOHO and corporate NetWare users waiting for Novell to release the "NetWare / eDirectory / Desktop / client login" package, all riding on top of SuSE, with KDE as the desktop for the workstations. Our shop is^^ was one of those NetWare users. We had been waiting two years now, almost a generation in computer years, and Novell still hasn't got a client login app that works reliably. Their "NLD" is a joke. And now Novell is laying off or diverting programmers? Our shop won't wait forever, and I am afraid our IT head has written Novell off his list of future vendors, although I hope he hasn't eliminated Linux as a server OS.
            I had used SuSE since 5.3 and have paid invoices for over twenty boxed sets since then. Then Novell bought SuSE and the first thing I encounter is their new anti-GPL EULA, which caused a firestorm on the newsgroup before they 'cleared' things up. That was, to me, a sure sign that the man at the top had no clue and in his hands SUSE was in trouble. That's when I read the tea leaves and decided to start looking for another distro and found it in SimplyMEPIS.
  • A Bomb waiting to explode

    Much as I respect the sentiment of Linus T. that he would rather a desktop mature and win out rather than supporting one - it is perhaps time to pick a Desktop and extend it completely. Imagine the focussing of all resources towards extending one Desktop. This problem would have never happened if Distros had been directed to pick one and extend it.

    Now we have a body with two heads - each strongheaded enough to resist change in all ways.

    Pick one - KDE or GNOME and give the other a decent burial and move on - it will only help Linux.
    • The funny thing is...

      Once every few months, I get it into my head to start using the BSD box at home for more than what its currently doing (serving web pages, email, FTP, occassionally acting as a place to ditch data), and pop a desktop system on there. I would love to try either KDE, GNOME or both, but nowhere can I find a good, side-by-side comparison that can explain even the most superficial differences and why I should pick one over the other. If someone could tell me what they do differently, I'd be delighted.

      Justin James
      • RE: The funny thing is ...

        J. Ja,
        IF you know how to burn an ISO then download the Knoppix 4.0.2 LiveCD ISO and burn it. You can also try PCLinuxOS 0.92 LiveCD. They both run off your CD WITHOUT touching your harddisk or current OS.

        They both come up running KDE. Play with KDE for a while. Then, log off, and from the login screen you'll see a menu option where you can select GHOME as the desktop. Select it and start GNOME and play with it. Then make up your own mind.
    • Two heads?

      There exist in the Linux community at least twenty "heads" (desktops), not just KDE and GNOME. It's not up to the Novell, or any particular group, to "pick" one head and kill the other. The community and public will decide by choosing which one they want to use. And, they have. That battle is long over. KDE won on the desktop. GHOME won on the server. GNOME is not strong on connecivity, but for a server desktop it doesn't have to be. KDE is more powerful than Windows, and that's what personal users want. I have no doubt that situation will stay that way, regardless of what commercial vendors want or try to force.

      Depending on your source of information KDE has anywhere from 2 to 5 times more users than GNOME. And, it's fair to say that somewhere between 3-5% use one of the other twenty desktops.

      RH first started using GNOME as its principal desktop on their RHEL servers and while one can switch RHEL to KDE I never did. The GNOME based GTK+ admin specialty apps RH supplied were very well made for their job and I saw no reason to switch to KDE. But, for workstations, KDE was/is my choice. Desktops out number servers 30 or more to 1, and add to that the fact that for a long time KDE has been the default desktop for SOHO and personal distros and you understand why the market HAS already chosen KDE as the dekstop of choice for desktops. Neither RH nor Novell will change that fact, despite all the PR or submarine stories to the contrary.