Novell CTO sets exit plan on eve of user conference

Just days before next week’s kickoff of Novell Inc.’s annual BrainShare user conference, its chief technology officer disclosed plans to leave the company at the end of the month to become the general manager of a software business unit at another IT vendor.

The planned departure of CTO Alan Nugent comes on the heels of former No. 2 executive Chris Stone’s surprise exit last November (QuickLink 50595). But several Novell users said they were unfazed by the news that Nugent is following Stone, whose title was vice chairman, out the door.

“So the president and CTO have come and gone. This is just another one,” said Jay Hall, unit manager of server engineering at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama in Birmingham. “In our opinion, they still have the best technology around, and as long as we believe that’s true, we’re going to stay with them.”

Hall said he supports Novell’s Linux strategy as “the only chance they have to get back in the game.” His company already is testing the Open Enterprise Server software that Novell shipped earlier this month. OES supports file, print, directory and other computing services on both NetWare and SUSE Linux.

“All of those upper management positions seem to be a revolving door,” said Brad Staupp, a senior support analyst at NetWare user Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan. “But I’ve been a beta tester for six years, and the majority of the people that write the code and do the day-to-day work, they’re still there.” Novell hasn’t said whether it plans to fill Nugent’s or Stone’s positions, noted company spokesman Bruce Lowry.

Nugent, who said he joined Novell at Stone’s behest in June 2002, stressed that he was happy at the company and that his decision has nothing to do with Stone’s exit. He said the new job represents a “fabulous opportunity” to oversee a business unit that is “larger than Novell.” Nugent said he was approached by the company, which he declined to identify, and added that he will remain on Novell’s payroll until month’s end.

Jon Strickland, president of the Triangle Novell Users’ Group in Raleigh, N.C., said Stone’s departure sparked discussion at a member meeting. But he views Nugent’s departure as “par for the course” at Novell. “As long as they keep their general focus — being dedicated to Linux and open-source as well as supporting their NetWare base — I don’t think any customers should show any concern,” said Strickland, who is a senior network engineer at Alphanumeric Systems Inc., a Novell business partner.

Not everyone shares that view, though. A Computer Sciences Corp. employee who works on a contract basis at a large government agency and asked not to be identified said the management changes are “just another indicator that Novell is in trouble.”

The agency last November started to replace NetWare with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Server, partly because of concerns about Novell’s long-term direction, according to the contractor. “And the sad thing is, they have a great product,” he said. “I would much rather be on NetWare servers and a NetWare directory than (on) Microsoft.”

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