Red Hat CTO unexpectedly quits, amid rumors of executive 'friction'

In a surprising move, long-time Red Hat executive Brian Stevens has stepped down from the company, as staffers suspect friction in the executive suite.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Long-time Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens has left the company.
Image: Red Hat

No-one among the rank and file at Red Hat seem to have seen this coming. In a move the Linux giant's staffers said was "shocking" and a "punch in the gut," long-time Red Hat chief technology officer Brian Stevens has resigned.

In a short press release, the company announced: "Brian Stevens will step down as CTO."

In the same release, Red Hat's president and chief executive Jim Whitehurst said, "We want to thank Brian for his years of service and numerous contributions to Red Hat’s business. We wish him well in his future endeavors."

Until Red Hat picks a new CTO, his office will be managed by Red Hat's president of products and technologies Paul Cormier.

Officially, Red Hat has nothing more to say about the matter.

But some Red Hat employees speculated that Stevens may have left because of friction between Stevens and Cormier. They observed that CTO office had been moved out from underneath Cormier's control some time back. However, no one said that was any kind of current feud that might have lead to this move.

Others suggested that perhaps Stevens wanted to move up to a CEO slot and that would never happen within the company.

Stevens, whose Red Hat page was taken down minutes after the news was released, had been with Red Hat since 2001. Before that he had been the CTO at Mission Critical Linux, and a senior architect at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), where he worked on Digital's UNIX operating system. Today it lives on as HP's Tru64. In technical circles, he's perhaps best known for his work on the X Window System, the foundation of Unix and Linux graphic systems. 

While at Red Hat, Stevens often outlines the company's technical and business plans for the public. Most recently for example, he spoke at Gigaom Structure on Red Hat and OpenStack. Before that, he laid out Red Hat's future technology plans at Red Hat Summit in April.

Outside of Red Hat, Stevens has been on the boards of the IEEE Computer Society and the OpenStack Foundation.

Stevens has played a major role at Red Hat and open-source technology for over a decade. It will be interesting to see what both he, and Red Hat, will do moving forward.

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