Novell, Red Hat Appoint New Chief Technology Officers
Published: January 9, 2006
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Commercial Linux distributor Novell continues to rejigger its management chairs as it deals with departures of key executives. IT Jungle was on holiday for Thanksgiving when Novell announced that it had appointed a new chief technology officer for the entire company, a position that has been vacant since April of this year, when Alan Nugent departed the company for Computer Associates to take over the company's Unicenter systems management business.
Novell's new CTO is Jeffrey Jaffe, a heavy-hitting technologist who hails from IBM and the legendary Bell Laboratories, birthplace of Unix and C and other core IT technologies. As the CTO at Novell, Jaffe will be responsible for Novell's overall technology direction and will manage the product business units. How directly he will manage the technology remains to be seen, and the management structure Novell has instituted is a bit complex. David Patrick, Novell's vice president of Linux, and Kent Erickson, the company's vice president for identity products, will report directly to Jaffe and will manage their respective product lines. But Markus Rex, Novell's CTO for Linux will for some strange reason keep reporting to Patrick and Carlos Montero-Luque, Novell's CTO for identity products, will keep reporting to Erickson. Perhaps over time the CTOs will start reporting to Jaffe, but what seems to be the case is that Novell wanted Patrick and Erickson to report to someone other than new president and chief operating officer, Ron Hovsepian, who in turn reports to chairman and CEO Jack Messman.
Whether or not this management structure makes sense for the long term remains to be seen, but Novell clearly wants to get a serious technologist in charge of its technology direction, so it can show customers and investors that it is not experiencing a big brain drain and it can attract big-time talent.
Jaffe may not be Bill Gates, the founder and chief technologist at Microsoft, or Bill Joy, the founding chief technologist at Sun Microsystems, but he is no slouch, either. Jaffe got his PhD in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979, and immediately joined IBM's TJ Watson Research Center in New York. He spent two decades at Big Blue in a variety of technical and management positions, and eventually vice president of systems and software research at TJ Watson. He was later named general manager of IBM's short-lived SecureWay business unit, which gathered together IBM's security, directory, and networking software businesses under one umbrella. In 2000, after AT&T had spun out its network equipment business as Lucent Technologies, Bell Labs went with Lucent and Jaffe moved to Bell Labs. He was named president of Bell Labs Research and Advanced Technologies unit, and opened up labs in India and Ireland. He was named chairman of the board of the New Jersey Nanotechnology Consortium recently, too. He has done the lecture circuit promoting the use of open source technologies in the telecommunications business, which is one of the reasons why Novell is interested in him as its new uber-CTO.
The other reason is political and industry connections. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Jaffe to serve on the Advisory Committee for the Presidential Commission for Critical Infrastructure Protection. (This is government speak for "Holy cow, our Internet and phone networks are a mess! Get some smart people in here to tell us what we can do to fix this. . . Now.") Jaffe chaired the Chief Technology Officer group of the Computer Systems Policy Project, a joint project of the largest dozen IT and telecom vendors that is now called the Technology CEO Council, which was founded in 1989 by the CEOs of those companies to lean on the federal government more or less as a lobby group. The CEOs of nine America IT companies--Intel, Hewlett-Packard, NCR, IBM, Dell, Applied Materials, EMC, Unisys, and Motorola--are currently in this organization, and you will notice the lack of telecom companies there. IT and telecom companies have always been oil and vinegar--the only way to keep them from separating is to shake them up. Anyway, Jaffe has also served on the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board. And being a fellow of both the ACM and the IEEE doesn't hurt Jaffe, either.
Novell's chief rival in the commercial Linux distribution business, appointed its own chief technology officer recently, too--one with deep Linux and Unix credentials. Brian Stevens, who has been hacking operating systems professionally for 20 years, was named the CTO at Red Hat in early October.
Prior to his appointment, Stevens was the CTO at Mission Critical Linux, a startup that tried to create a hardened Linux variant that was created by a bunch of former Compaq/Digital techies. Stevens doesn't have the political connections of Jaffe, but he has a strong technical resume based on his work at the former Compaq and Digital, where Stevens was one of the main architects of the Tru64 Unix operating system for Digital's VAX and Alpha lines of servers. Stevens was a senior member of the Digital and then Compaq technical staff for 14 years and was the developer of the first commercial X Window system (part of "Project Athena," a distributed desktop computing environment created by Digital, IBM, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was launched in 1983). Project Athena is where X Window, instant messaging, and Kerberos security were invented. Stevens was also the technical lead and main architect of the TruCluster clustering product for Digital Unix, which was renamed to Tru64 Unix in the 1990s.
If I wanted someone to fix my Linux server or if I wanted to build a variant of Linux with embedded, transparent clustering, I would call Stevens. If I wanted to try to create a hardened Linux and then needed someone to peddle the product to the telecommunications industry, I would call Jaffe. The question is, who is going to build that SUSE telecom variant?