Samba guru quits Novell for Google over GPL controversy

Allison leaves in protest, despite having 'a lot of fun'

Famed open-source proponent and Samba programmer Jeremy Allison has resigned his position at Novell Inc. and will join Google Inc. in protest over the company's Linux-Windows interoperability deal with Microsoft Corp.

Allison's first day at Google, where he will continue work on Samba, will be Jan. 2, he confirmed in an interview with IDG News Service on Friday. Samba is open-source file-and-print-server software; it is currently distributed as part of SUSE Linux.

Google's plans for Samba are not known, and Allison would not comment further about his resignation or new position because he said he agreed with Novell not to until Dec. 29, his last day with the company.

However, Allison did divulge that he is not pleased he had to make the decision to leave Novell. "I really liked it there," he said. "I was having a lot of fun."

Allison also confirmed that comments and a letter attributed to him posted on the Groklaw Web site are legitimate. He said he posted the comments and the letter to several internal mailing lists at Novell, but that someone else leaked the letter to Groklaw.

In the comments, Allison called Novell's deal with Microsoft "a mistake ... [that] will be damaging to Novell's success in the future." He said that even if the deal -- which involved Novell paying Microsoft for patents -- does not violate the GPL license, it violates "the intent of the GPL."

The GPL, or GNU General Public License, is a popular open-source license. Samba and other technologies that are also part of the SUSE Linux distribution are released under the GPL.

Striking a patent agreement for technology that is released under the GPL "has put us outside the community, and there is no positive aspect to that fact, and no way to make it so," Allison wrote in his letter.

Novell announced its Linux-Windows interoperability deal with Microsoft on Nov. 3. The part of the deal that spurred Allison's departure from Novell is a patent agreement in which Novell will make royalty payments to Microsoft so the company will not assert rights to patents it may hold over any technology that is or will be incorporated into SUSE Linux.

Protected under this part of the deal are individuals and noncommercial open-source developers that create code and contribute to the SUSE Linux distribution, as well as developers getting paid to create code that goes into the distribution.

Allison laughed when questioned if Novell's Chief Technology Officer and Strategy Officer for Open Source Nat Friedman, who also has criticized the Novell-Microsoft deal, also plans to find a new job.

"You might as well ask me what Bigfoot's address is," he said. However, some have speculated that Allison will not be the only open-source developer to exit Novell because the company got into bed with Microsoft.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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