SuSE Linux names new CEO

Gerhard Burtscher, a longtime computer executive, will take over as chief executive. The change is part of a reorganization expected to bring profitability in 2002.

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Gerhard Burtscher, a longtime computer executive, will take over as chief executive of German Linux seller SuSE on Saturday as part of a reorganization expected to bring profitability in 2002.

Burtscher will take over from Johannes Nussbickel, who was promoted from chief financial officer in June and will resume that position. Nussbickel had replaced longtime CEO Roland Dyroff, who took charge of North American marketing.

Burtscher has been working in the computer industry for more than 20 years and has held sales and marketing executive positions at Texas Instruments, Digital Equipment, MIPS Technologies, Silicon Graphics and Siemens-Nixdorf, SuSE said in a statement.

"My challenge...is to transform each employee's great passion for technology into a powerful financial base, viable on a long-term basis," Burtscher said in a statement.

SuSE, like many Linux companies, has been struggling with the economic downturn and diminished hype around Linux, a clone of the Unix operating system that has gained widespread use. Linux has strong backing from IBM and has put pricing pressure on Microsoft but still isn't generally used on high-end servers.

SuSE laid off 30 people in February in the United States, and another 50 in Germany in June.

With the changes at the company, including reorganization into five business units, SuSE expects profitability in 2002, Nussbickel said in a statement.

The five business units focus on products for technically skilled users; pre-configured product bundles for business customers; consulting, training and other services for large customers; products for government customers; and partnerships with other computing companies including Compaq Computer, IBM, Advanced Micro Devices, Oracle, SAP and SGI.

SuSE's chief competitor is Red Hat, the first Linux company to go public and the first to achieve profitability, however fleeting. Also publicly traded are Caldera International, which also sells Unix, and MandrakeSoft, which went public in July. VA Linux Systems once sold Linux computers but now has transformed into a software company selling collaborative programming tools.

IBM is one of the strongest proponents of Linux today, choosing partnerships with SuSE, Red Hat, Turbolinux and Caldera to bolster its position. IBM argues that Linux, because it runs on so many different types of processors, is well suited to simplify software across IBM's four main server lines.

As expected, Red Hat began offering support for IBM's zSeries mainframe computers along with Big Blue's lesser servers. Red Hat offers a version of its operating system as well as services for each of the four product lines.

Red Hat also has begun supporting IBM's pSeries Unix server and iSeries special-purpose servers, though only with 32-bit versions of the operating system. Those server lines use 64-bit processors, which allow access to larger databases, and IBM's operating systems for them--AIX and AS/400, respectively--are 64-bit products.

IBM and others are working on 64-bit versions of Linux for those servers. Linux has run on 64-bit systems such as Compaq's Alpha chip for years, so most of the operating system doesn't have to be changed for the higher-powered CPUs.

Red Hat's support for IBM's xSeries Intel servers includes both the 32-bit Pentium and Xeon-based products and the 64-bit Itanium-based products.