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From Alfresco to Canonical

After four-plus years at Alfresco, it's time for the author of CNET's The Open Road to move on to a new challenge, as COO of Ubuntu Linux backer Canonical.

After more than four years at Alfresco, I have joined Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution, as its chief operating officer.

You can read Canonical's announcement of my appointment here, as well Alfresco's here.

I am excited, humbled, and, candidly, torn by this opportunity.

In late 2005, John Powell and John Newton, the co-founders of Alfresco, took a chance on me, an open-source evangelist at Novell. I was the 13th employee and the company's first U.S. employee. My prior history had been with embedded Linux (Lineo) and semiconductors/silicon (Mitsui), but they gave me the chance to grow as general manager of the Americas and later as vice president of business development.

These have been the best years of my career, working with wonderful people who have pushed me to work harder, become smarter, and do better. I've been fortunate to help the company to 18 straight growth quarters, with Alfresco's most recent quarter (ending February 28) the company's biggest ever--and by a significant margin. The problem, for me, is that Alfresco runs so well now that I have been having a hard time finding meaningful ways to continue to contribute.

When my friend Mark Shuttleworth texted me over the Christmas holiday about the opening of the COO role, it interested me greatly. It is an opportunity to expand my experience and to work on some really hard and varied problems, including cloud computing, consumer Linux adoption, and community development. It's also the opportunity to work with some fantastic people (over 320 of them scattered across 29 different countries).

I spent a few days in London, meeting with several of the people with whom I'll have daily interaction (including Jane Silber, Chris Kenyon, Mark Shuttleworth, Neil Levine, Suzanne Rozier, Matt Zimmerman), and, as I have at Alfresco, I felt at home. These are bright, driven people. It made the challenges of Canonical feel less daunting.

As COO, I am tasked with aligning the company's strategic goals and operational activities, the optimization of day-to-day operations, and leadership of Canonical marketing and back-office functions. Some of these things are very familiar to me; others aren't. That's precisely the challenge I feel I need.

I will remain living in Utah but will commute regularly to London, where most of the Canonical executives are based. (I will be starting my days at 4 a.m. Mountain Time to try to overlap as much as possible with U.K. working hours. Ouch.)

Despite this change, I want to stress that this blog remains a CNET open-source blog, not a Canonical blog (just as it hasn't been an Alfresco blog). I'm sure that there will be more Linux-related stories, but to my friends at Red Hat and other open-source companies, please--as always--let me know if you think a post in The Open Road has been unfair to your company.

And to my friends at proprietary software companies, well, I won't think less of you for surrendering early. :-)