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Red Hat's sales architect exits on Linux high

Coders' money man expendable?

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Open... and Shut While his name won't be familiar to most, Alex Pinchev has been one of the primary architects of Red Hat's stunning, consistent growth over the past decade as its head of global sales.

At a company that values engineers as highly as Red Hat does, Pinchev still commands profound respect, not to mention fear, despite not being able to write a line of code. Over the last nine years, Pinchev's relentless, dogged determination to increase sales has paid for huge contributions to the Linux kernel and open-source software, generally.

And now he's leaving, as Red Hat announced on Friday. Red Hat slipped out the news on a day when most Americans would have been too distracted to notice, recovering from Thanksgiving either traveling or shopping.

As with most things, Pinchev had his way with the departure. In a letter to Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst dated 23 November, Pinchev resigned from Red Hat, indicating that he'd be leaving "to serve as the CEO of a private company and ecosystem partner of Red Hat". The identity of this company is not yet disclosed, but was announced as a "data protection" startup.

What is clear is that while Pinchev's presence will be missed within the Red Hat machine (far fewer truckloads of Valium will be needed to buoy up the sales team at quarter end – Pinchev doesn't smile upon failure to hit one's numbers), Red Hat is bigger than any one man. If ever Red Hat was going to take a stumble it was at the departure of its charismatic early CEO, Matthew Szulik. I certainly thought he couldn't be replaced.

I was wrong.

Szulik-replacement Jim Whitehurst has more than doubled Red Hat's stock price since he joined in December 2007. True, Whitehurst has had lots of help, including from Pinchev's behind-the-scenes arm-twisting to get deals done.

But the point is that Red Hat long ago ceased to be about any one person, no matter how capable they are. Red Hat has deeply talented executives within its sales team. My money is on Greg Symon, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's North American sales operation, to replace Pinchev. Symon joined in 2009 from Intel, where he was senior managing director of Intel's software business. He can easily scale up to assume Pinchev's mantle of leadership.

The market seems to believe so, as well. Red Hat's stock price took a small slide on Thursday and Friday, but is back up to its peak. Pinchev has been a huge part of Red Hat's success, but the Red Hat show will go on without him. ®

Update

Pinchev has now announced that he will be joining Acronis, a small backup company for Linux and Windows systems.

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analyzing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.

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