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Novell South Africa Suffered a Staff Exodus in 2007Q2

Posted in Africa, NetWare, Novell at 1:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Earlier today we said that Novell had lost Joseph LaSala, a senior vice president in the company. On the face of it, things were pretty grim in South Africa as well.

Novell South Africa has finally filled the gaps in its senior management left by an exodus of staff in the second-half of last year.

Does anyone still think the Microsoft deal was a good idea rather than a tactless and desperate act?


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  1. Anonymous said,

    January 8, 2008 at 1:59 pm


    Don’t you feel silly trying to pretend a relation to the Microsoft deal for everything all the time?

  2. Anonymous said,

    January 8, 2008 at 5:30 pm



    I’ve enjoyed reading your site for a while now but recently I’ve noticed what only can be described as a more fundamentalist tone. This post is a classic example. I cannot see any linkage between staff churn in a country and the Microsoft – Novell linux deal. Please explain.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2008 at 6:58 pm


    Hi Anonymous,

    As you are probably aware, Novell bets on SUSE (and some related products) for future growth and expansion. It therefore depends heavily on the loyalty of its SUSE developers. On numerous occasions in the past we saw Linux developers who left specifically because of this deal with Microsoft. Examples include this one (Gartner’s George Weiss: A Lot of SUSE Developers Left Because of Microsoft/Novell Deal). I will gladly elaborate further and give more examples.

    As a former (and long-time) SUSE user myself, I know for sure that the deal made a difference not only to me, but also to other people whom I know. They used SUSE also, but there’s plenty fish in a sea without lock-ins.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2008 at 7:16 pm


    By the way, I realise that many people have not read this Web site since November 2006, so there might be gaps in understanding. If anyone wants to challenge an argument, please leave a comment. Shane and I will gladly respond and point in the right direction. And in case people wonder why Shane launched this Web site, we are both Linux/Free software developers who are (or “were”, if it’s already too late) hoping that Novell will somehow retract and make up for what was done.

    Be aware that attempts are made by those who are criticised here to portray us as “zealots” or “conspiracy theorists” exactly for the reason expressed in your comments. I was more than once told by a famous Webmistress that destroying our credibility is the best chance they have as means of diverting people away from the truth. Only yesterday I found out that people still leave fake comments under my name to make me look like an extremist and create hostility. For that reason alone, yesterday I received messages like:

    Yes. It’s why I publicly announced I would never comment on any site but [my own] unless I said so on [my site] specifically.


    Byfield isn’t your collegue. He’s trying to destroy your reputation.

    Anyway, I had to say this to add some context and hopefully clarify the complexity of the situation. Attempts are being made to twist things.

  5. Lukas said,

    January 8, 2008 at 7:25 pm


    Out of curiosity, can you provide a link(s) to articles talking about how many/which developers left specifically due to the Microsoft-Novell deal?

    I only know of Jeremy Allison (of Samba fame).

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2008 at 7:43 pm


    They rarely say so specifically (it would be tactless), but Guenther Deschner (of Samba) followed Jeremy’s path. Just remember that the Samba team was among the more vocal protesters who were opposing this deal.

    While Gartner is a Microsoft/Gates-funded analyst (I rarely trust them), this one is worth a glance. I now realise that there was a typo which ruined the markup above (it was supposed to be cited in comment #3 (which it is now because I fixed the typo). This seems to confirm that the Microsoft deal rationalised many departures.

  7. Lukas said,

    January 8, 2008 at 8:22 pm


    It’s rather difficult to trace that article back to original articles plus I can’t seem to copy/paste the urls in the blockquotes :-(

    Anyways, the only names I came up with were Jeremy Allison (who we know about as it was very public), Robert Love (who has stated that the MS-Novell deal was not, in fact, why he left[1] – he left because he had an opportunity at Google[2]) and some mention of articles claiming that SuSE developers have quit because of the deal but the links on those pages did not reference any articles discussing it (only articles about Citrix and Scalix which contained no mention of anyone quitting).

    Your link to Guenther makes 3 named people, but only 2 of whom actually left because of the deal.

    No doubt other people have quit since the Microsoft-Novell deal, but to claim they left /because of/ it really needs to be backed up by a public announcement made by them saying so or it is just speculation.

    My guess is that the original news articles that you quoted don’t like to get into specifics because it’s not impressive to say “2 developers have left” when it sounds so much more impressive to say “a number of developers left” while hiding the fact that the only reason they could pluralize “developers” was because there was more than 1 (which is enough to make the word plural, but just barely).

    1. http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=233523&cid=18998323
    2. http://blog.rlove.org/2007_05_01_archive.html

  8. Lukas said,

    January 8, 2008 at 8:33 pm


    As a followup, if I say “I have a basket of apples” most people will probably imagine that I mean a basket /full/ of apples which, if my intention is to sell that basket (for example), serves my purposes quite well ;)

    At worst the average person will imagine more than 2 which still serves my purpose quite a bit better than simply saying “I have a basket of 2 apples”.

    It’s a devious trick to play on people’s imaginations to make them believe what I want them to believe.

    Now, this sort of phrasing doesn’t always come from a means to mislead (no doubt everyone has innocently used this type of phrasing before), but you have to be careful as a reader to find out what the messenger /really/ means by his pluralization.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2008 at 9:04 pm



    I can see your point, but I can’t help wondering why you said very little about the article which says:

    …Weiss points to last November’s Novell-Microsoft deal, in which the two agreed to collaborate on the development of some technologies, including trying to help Windows work with Novell’s open-source Suse.

    “When this happened, there was a lot of disillusionment in the market and a lot of Suse developers left on the principle that they wouldn’t work for a company that has these agreements with proprietary vendors,” Weiss says.

    The URLs are hard to extract from the quote because the cite attribute is used. There are always accompanying hyperlinks just before the quotes.

    People make choices based on a /variety/ of considerations and a mixture of feelings rarely leaves a single reason. I know this from personal experience because recently I quit two jobs (one in September last year and another in March last year). These were IT/networking jobs that I had been doing for many years simultaneously and a /mixture/ of considerations, including the use of time, contributed to the final decisions. I never did (and I never can) name a single reason, but it just felt like ‘the right thing’ to do. I suppose the same might be true for some who leave Novell. I can only guess.

  10. Lukas said,

    January 8, 2008 at 9:51 pm


    Aha, I missed that quote at the very bottom of the article. Apologies. That is in fact the article I manually typed the URL into my browser from the cite tag, but somehow missed the quote and got confused thinking maybe it came from another article but couldn’t find where.

    Anyways, the Weiss quote doesn’t name names or even state a rough number, so it’s hard to determine if he is referring to Jeremy & Guenther or others or Jeremy, Guenther and others. It’s impossible to verify the accuracy of his claims that “a lot of developers left…” because it is so vague. I also have to wonder how he came to the conclusion that they left because of the MS-Novell deal – did these people write blog entries/send email messages to some mailing-list, etc explaining the reasons for leaving? Did he interview the developers as they left asking why they left? What are his sources?

    (I fully understand that if Weiss’ article is bogus it’s not your fault, I’m just curious as to the answers to those questions – maybe the only way to find out is to ask Weiss himself)

    As far as your explanation that people makes choices to leave a company based on a variety of reasons, I fully agree with you. I left my last job for a number of reasons – no single reason would have motivated me enough to leave by itself, but combined it was more than enough.

    In case your point was that each of the phantom developers may have left for other reasons in addition to the MS-Novell deal, sure – that would be reasonable to suspect, but first it must be shown that the MS-Novell deal was even in their list of reasons to have left in the first place, otherwise suggesting that they left (even if just in part) /because of/ the MS-Novell deal can’t be claimed.

    e.g. it can’t be said that the MS-Novell deal played a part in developer XYZ leaving if his his or her reasons for leaving didn’t even include the MS-Novell deal.

    What I’m trying to say is that it is entirely possible for developers to leave Novell and have all of their reasons be completely unrelated to the MS-Novell deal.

    I’m also saying that the Weiss quote from the article saying that a lot of devs left because of the MS-Novell deal is highly suspect because it has no evidence to back that claim nor to establish that the MS-Novell deal was at all related to their decisions to leave.

    I’m sorry, but his word is not good enough especially when it is so vague that no one can possibly verify it.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm


    (I fully understand that if Weiss’ article is bogus it’s not your fault, I’m just curious as to the answers to those questions – maybe the only way to find out is to ask Weiss himself)

    I thought about this at one stage.

    Mind the fact that Shane and I never argued that people leave Novell just because of the Microsoft/Novell deal. In this case, I challenged or ‘teased’ by impulsively saying: “Does anyone still think the Microsoft deal was a good idea rather than a tactless and desperate act?”

    In other words — or one way of interpreting this is — the Microsoft deal didn’t do much to save Novell. This renders the deal redundant and arguably (to be fair to your bias) makes it more harmful than anything else. Novell’s SUSE had the technical lead just before the deal as far as I’m concerned. It then blew it.

  12. Lukas said,

    January 9, 2008 at 12:45 am


    Mind the fact that Shane and I never argued that people leave Novell just because of the Microsoft/Novell deal.

    nod. I’m sorry if it felt like I was saying otherwise, I was mostly questioning the accuracy of Weiss’ statement :)

    In other words — or one way of interpreting this is — the Microsoft deal didn’t do much to save Novell.

    As far as “street cred” with the community, certainly not. If their goal was to satisfy customer demands (as I’ve heard it argued was their reasoning), I cannot comment as I don’t know any of those details ;)

    I can merely speculate…

    The deal has certainly been damaging to their reputation afaict.

    To that I think we both agree :)

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 9, 2008 at 12:59 am


    As far as “street cred” with the community, certainly not. If their goal was to satisfy customer demands

    Customers neither always understand nor foresee the implications. Novell ought to explain rather than act impulsively and think short-term (Microsoft’s temporary boost made through payments).

    Remember that Jack Messman got sacked for being too passive and not doing enough to have the company reborn. Novell’s current CEO, Ron Hovsepian, wants you to believe that Novell is seeing a revival thanks to the Microsoft deal. As the above clearly demonstrates, this is not the case. Ron Hovsepian brought no real improvements and to make matter worse, he hurt the Linux and Free software industry. He sought success at the expense of other whom his company shares code with.

    Wait for the 2008′s quarterly reports. Without the coupons and the Microsoft payments Novell’s revenue will sink much further . Novell will carry on cooking the books to boast Linux earnings that are not and also sack employees, as already planned.

    To be honest with you, I think Microsoft “tilted Novell into the death spiral”, to use a phrase Microsoft has used many times internally (e.g. in the Lotus case). It’s a shame because I used to love Novell and I still sort of like this company, which I feel sorry for.

  14. Anonymous said,

    January 9, 2008 at 2:12 am


    > It therefore depends heavily on the loyalty of its SUSE developers.

    And the Novell South Africa senior vice president was a SUSE developer? Starting at a certain level many managers are jumping between companies every few years because they have no chance to develop themselves otherwise. And back to developers, everyone who can really not live with the Microsoft deal has left meanwhile. Alleging everyone who changes his job an opinion against the Microsoft deal is just silly.

  15. Anonymous said,

    January 9, 2008 at 2:20 am


    “the Microsoft deal didn’t do much to save Novell.”

    “Wait for the 2008’s quarterly reports. Novell’s revenue will sink much further .”

    You still fail to understand (or better you try to hide it because it serves your fudding better) that Novell is a mixed-source company and only a fraction does Linux business (also when looking at employees/revenue). And the regression of Netware usage has really nothing to do with the Linux Microsoft deal.

  16. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 9, 2008 at 2:30 am


    And the regression of Netware usage has really nothing to do with the Linux Microsoft deal.

    Absolutely. I agree and I’m aware of this. Do remember that many products like OES are being migrated to SUSE Linux. This means that there’s still importance and reliance on all the Free software (or mixed source) Novell does. I would also assume that this makes most of Novell’s future products ‘tax’-deductible by Microsoft and it’s no way to compete against Microsoft.

    The lessons taken from the railways industry many years ago is that when you pay you rival per sale (of your own product), you’re pretty much doomed.

    Here is a nice video that explains this. I encourage you to watch it when you can spare some minutes.

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