Novell lays off openSUSE Linux developers

Even before the proverbial ink was dry on last week's interoperability deal between Microsoft and Red Hat, Linux competitor Novell laid off a still unknown number of employees involved with the open source openSUSE community.

The openSUSE community has included volunteer developers in addition to paid employees of Novell, a major rival to Red Hat in the Linux space which forged its own interoperability pact with Microsoft in late 2006.

In telling OpenSUSE community members about the layoffs, openSUSE board members Pascal Blesser and Bryen Yunashko focused on the ramifications of the financial crisis on jobs around the globe.

"As you may know, recently Novell made the decision to reduce the workforce in their organization in the wake of our current economic outlook which is affecting everyone globally in all sectors of life. Unfortunately, this has also impacted some members of the openSUSE Community who were employed by Novell when, earlier this week, they were laid off," Bleser and Yunashko wrote, also on Thursday.

"We hear about layoffs every day now. Most of us have been hit by layoffs in recent times, if not personally, then friends and family. The sadness we feel for our fellow community members is just as strong and our hearts go out to them in this time."

At the beginning of this month, Novell reportedly confirmed that it had laid off 100 workers, out of a global workforce of about 4,200 employees.

Jobless rates are indeed skyrocketing in countries and across companies throughout the world. But Novell apparently then chose to send out a new batch of pink slips just before Microsoft's announcement of a virtualization interoperability deal with Red Hat.

Meanwhile, openSUSE developers had already been working on interoperability between Microsoft Windows and openSUSE for more than two years in areas that also include virtualization. Contributions made to openSUSE are often fed into Novell's commercial SUSE Linux software.

Earlier today, Red Hat announced a new set of products designed to support its own interoperability deal with Microsoft, without mentioning how the four new products might interplay with those of Novell or any other commercial Linux operating system distributor.

In their open letter to openSUSE community members on Thursday, Bleser and Yunashko did not say how many of Novell's open source developers have been impacted by the latest round of layoffs. But the two board members did say they remain convinced that Novell is committed to the openSUSE Project.

"Is is also our observation that the community as a whole remains active, vibrant and motivated," according to the board members. "While we cannot speak for Novell and the reasons behind its decisions, we do take offense [at] those outside our community who have decided to exploit the hardship of our fellow community members in these trying times for their own personal gain in their misguided rants against the Project and misinterpreted portrayals to the general public."

Particularly prior to the interoperability announcement between Red Hat and Microsoft, some bloggers were attacking Novell for moves such as improving interoperability with ASP.NET, getting the Novell/Microsoft Moonlight project included in Ubuntu Linux 9.04, and increasing its hiring of .NET developers.

One developer contended in the Boycott Novell blog that, "as time goes by, Novell becomes more and more like a reflection of Microsoft, especially in the technical sense."

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