New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

Summary: There seems to be some dismay that the post-Attachmate openSUSE will still be dominated by Novell. And, this is a concern because?

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One of the questions that has yet to be completely answered by Attachmate's pending acquisition of Novell is what will happen to its associated community Linux, openSUSE. Some people in the open-source community, including my friends, Pamela Jones of Groklaw and Andrew "Andy" Updegrove, a founding partner at the law-firm, Gesmer Updegrove, are concerned that Attachmate/Novell will be calling the shots in the post-buyout openSUSE.

Much as I hate to disagree with two people I respect and like so much, I don't see why they think that there's a big deal is here.

Jones points out that "There's more than one stakeholder in the OpenSUSE foundation being set up, and you'll see that discussed in the log. Trademarks have economic value, and if the community is helping in building that value, I think it's logical that they should gain a share of ownership rights so as to get some share in that value and some say in what happens with the trademark."

She's right, of course. The other stakeholders should get something more than a virtual pat on the head, but they won't. This was also the case before Attachmate arrived on the scene. When push came to shove Novell has controlled openSUSE since the day it was first spun out.

Yes, its not a smart move that Novell's hand-picked openSUSE Board Chairman, Alan Clark,, doesn't have much in the way of openSUSE chops, but that's Novell's call. Again, openSUSE has never been independent of Novell.

Updegrove is also worried. His concerns focus on "While the current uncertainty over the future of the SUSE Linux Project may serve some unknown goal of Attachmate's, it certainly must be unsettling for the independent developers involved, and presumably for Novell's enterprise Linux users as well." He states that "It would be better for all concerned if Attachmate would make a frank public announcement today regarding its intentions for this new foundation."

I really don't see a need. Can there be any doubt that the new openSUSE group will exactly what the old one was: a community extension of the company. Like the Who song says, "Meet the old boss, same as the new boss." After all, this is how corporate open-source works.

For all that open-source people look at OuterCurve Foundation, the Microsoft-sponsored open-source group, with justified suspicion about its open-source support, and now some of us are casting worried glances at openSUSE's future, the truth is that corporations have always been in charge of their associated open-source groups.

Take Red Hat and Fedora, for example. In 2005, when Red Hat announced the formation of Fedora, its community Linux distribution and Fedora Foundation, the plan was for the Foundation to eventually have control of the Fedora distribution.

By April 2006, though, Red Hat's plans had changed. The then Red Hat's Community Development Manager Greg DeKoenigsberg explained to me at the time that the Fedora Foundation was not going to take charge of the operating system, after all. Instead, Red Hat was retaining some "control over Fedora decisions, because Red Hat's business model depends upon Fedora." Today, Red Hat continues to retain control of both the Fedora Foundation and the Fedora Linux distribution.

At one time, Novell also talked about loosening its strings on openSUSE. But even as the company made that offer, Novell kept the right to appoint the group's chairman and half of its board's members. This is independence?

It's the same in other communities. Ubuntu, for instance, isn't the same thing as its corporate parent, Canonical. But, really, if Mark Shuttleworth, founder of both, strongly suggests that say Unity be used in place of GNOME shell for the desktop for the next version of Ubuntu, is the Ubuntu community really going to tell him no? I don't think so!

Yes, there are open-source and free-software foundations that are independent of corporations. The Apache Software Foundation and the Free Software Foundation both spring immediately to mind. But, if a project is closely connected to a commercial program, at the end of the day, its corporate parent will be the ones calling the shots. It's always been that way. It always will be.

Of course, if Attachmate/Novell staying in charge really bothers openSUSE developers enough, they can always walk away and start their own openSUSE fork. That's always an option in open-source circles. After all, that's essentially what The Document Foundation developers did with LibreOffice (http://practical-tech.com/development/the-openoffice-fork-is-officially-here/) when they and Oracle decided they couldn't work together anymore on OpenOffice.

I rather doubt they will though. If they were inclined to see the world that way, they'd be working on such completely free-software Linux distribution such as BLAG, GnewSense, or Trisquel, not openSUSE.

Topics: Operating Systems, Linux, Open Source, Software

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  • Sorry Steven, I won't touch openSUSE with a barge pole.

    No disrepsect to the developer community, but IMO they should fork.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate <br>I think Oracle left everyone with a more than justified fear of corporate buyouts and open-source solutions. Doesn't mean it is a bad thing, but those it effects certainly have cause to be concerned until they see otherwise.
      Socratesfoot
    • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate

      "barge pole"?
      Things were different fairly recently.

      I'd like to hear that story sometime.
      Tim Patterson
  • The New Boss is an Unknown Boss

    Steve,

    I agree that the corporate sponsors of the projects you mention have been in the catbird seat in the past. But the developers that are involved in these projects that are not employees of the sponsors have also had an opportunity to get to know the sponsors over time.

    When a company gets sold, though, all bets are off. The new boss can abandon, preempt, redirect - whatever they want, so long as they don't care whether some non-employee developers jump ship. In this case, we're dealing with a non-public company that is little known to most developers, so they have no way to tell whether the new boss will be benign, or the opposite. Look at the range of actions that Oracle has taken, from support to abandonment, of the projects it acquired from Sun.

    It's for this reason that I suggest that Attachmate would be smart to support setting up an independent foundation, so that developers and endusers alike can have a comfort factor.

    And, by the way, I think that Red Hat and Canonical should do the same thing.

    Best,

    Andy
    Andy Updegrove
    • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

      @Andy Updegrove
      There was to have been a Fedora foundation created around 2005. It was later decided to create a Fedora project instead. I dont see Red Hat creating a foundation at this time.
      choyongpil
    • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

      @Andy Updegrove
      Sorry, I skipped over the Red Hat portion. My comment was from an archived email sent from Max Spevack -Lead Red Hat's community Architecture team 2006.

      SJV, Sorry for repeating what your wrote.
      choyongpil
    • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

      @Andy Updegrove I'd also like to see independent foundations for the major commercial Linux distributions. I just don't see it happening though. Debian is proof that you can have a major distribution without a corporate parent, but it has comparatively little presence in the workplace.

      Your point about Oracle and Sun's software family is well-taken. In this case though since the real value, as I see it in Novell, is SUSE Linux, I can't see Attachmate abandoning openSUSE.

      Steven
      sjvn
  • Fork OpenSuSE

    It is very much in OpenSuSE's best interest to get away from the Microsoft-Novell agreement. It is very much in Novell's best interest to make OpenSuSE appear free of the Microsoft-Novell agreement while actually retaining hidden control of OpenSuSE.

    OpenSuSE can try to negotiate their independence all they want but at the end of the day Novell will retain control of OpenSuSE one way or the other. The members of OpenSuSE would be better off to put their efforts into forking OpenSuSE. The OpenSuSE members can take everything but the name, trademark and logo.

    When Ron Hovsepian won his battle for control of Novell he pushed all of the ex-SuSE management out of Novell. These men could be a very valuable resource in helping to fork OpenSuSE. SuSE was originally created by forking Red Hat. A combination of old and new SuSE community members would be a very viable combination to create a new forked OpenSuSE.

    ---------------------
    Steve Stites
    Steve Stites
    • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

      @Steve Stites
      Yes, the Microsoft - Novell agreement of 2006 benefited Novell SLES but openSUSE caught a lot of abuse as a result. I recall some openSUSE users getting hyper-agitated about the agreement and wiping openSUSE off their computers in protest. I continue to use openSUSE but for how long I'm not so sure. Maybe it is time for the openSUSE community to fork it. The nice thing about Linux is we've got plenty of distros to pick from when we get motivated to make a change.
      cloudnavigator
      • Yup

        @tim@...

        I was one of them.
        After watching the joint Novell/MS press conference I immediately started wiping openSUSE and installed Debian on my machines.

        @Stites

        While SuSE 'borrowed' extensively from Red Hat it was originally derived from the now extinct SLS Linux.
        Tim Patterson
  • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

    There is no Fedora Foundation:

    http://www.redhat.com/archives/fedora-announce-list/2006-April/msg00016.html

    The Fedora Foundation's formation was planned but later it was discarded for a number of reasons. The email above from then-project leader Max Spevack is illuminating. The Fedora Project has been managed since April 2006 by the Fedora Project Board, a body made up of elected and appointed Fedora community members:

    https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Board
    pfrields
  • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

    >>> Novell kept the right to appoint the group?s chairman and half of its board?s members. This is independence?

    Just wanted to correct the above incorrect-point. Novell had half of board members earlier but this has changed in the recent election. The new election rules clearly state that "Not more than 2 people can be from same company". This is the only constraint. There is a possibility that in the newly elected board, no Novell employees may get elected at all. Election is open to all openSUSE community members.

    Sankar
    psankar
    • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

      @psankar True, it's different now. In 2008, though, which is what I was talking about, it was half Novell.

      Steven
      sjvn
  • sjvn

    Let me say that it's nice to have someone here @ ZDNet who knows what's up concerning Linux/FOSS.
    Tim Patterson
  • RE: New OpenSUSE Foundation will still be dominated by Novell

    Late to the party, I saw Andy's blog which led to this story.

    I dont agree with you most of the time (its ok, my wife neither!!) but this is right on the money:

    "When push came to shove Novell has controlled openSUSE since the day it was first spun out.

    Yes, its not a smart move that Novell?s hand-picked openSUSE Board Chairman, Alan Clark,, doesn?t have much in the way of openSUSE chops, but that?s Novell?s call. Again, openSUSE has never been independent of Novell."

    I dont think its right but that's the reality of things.
    So I dont hold out too much hope for SUSE either.

    Like a german friend told me a few years ago "Ive been a SUSE-KDE guy since the beginning but watching it now is like watching your first girlfriend dating the world's worst jerk."

    Luckily, I had a wake for it a few years ago.
    Once the hangover subsided, I never looked back.
    Thankfully the Linux distro universe is well stocked with choice.

    Your second to last paragraph is grasping at straws where you say earlier that if they didnt like Attachmate they could just leave or fork.
    Fine.
    But "I rather doubt they will though. If they were inclined to see the world that way, they?d be working on such completely free-software Linux distribution such as BLAG, GnewSense, or Trisquel, not openSUSE."

    You associate someone who is not confortable with the direction of the company/project with people who only work on free software.
    Thats the kind of intellectual shortcuts which is your downfall usually.

    Not everyone can leave a job like Jeremy Allison did when Novell sold out to Microsoft (im a a non-compensated AND compensated developer so I took that piece of filth pretty personally). As for non-compensated developers, its harder I think to leave because you have emotional stakes in the project, youre not doing if for love.
    People quit jobs all the time, FLOSS projects are different, theyre a bit like your children.
    Sure, your kid might be a drug dealer or an axe murderer but you always hope that he will be the good child you remember when he was young. Even though logic says the child wont change, its part of being a parent to want to give another chance.
    Of course, some people compare this to battered wife syndrome also.

    Either way, its intellectually dishonest and youre one of the rare tech writers who knows how to punctuate an excellent article with one mindnumbingly off key note each time he writes.
    Its both a gift and a curse.

    My mother who is a teacher keeps saying: "Editing, editing, editing."
    zeke123