Key Sun Linux executive departs as drain continues

One of the key executives driving Sun Microsystems's nascent Linux strategy left the company last week, adding to a long list of top employees who have recently decided to depart from Sun.

Stephen DeWitt, vice president and general manager for content delivery and edge computing at the company, served his last day at Sun last Friday and is "taking some time off" before making his next move, according to a Sun spokeswoman. DeWitt, 36, joined Sun in 2000, following the company's completed acquisition of Cobalt Networks Inc.

With his experience as Cobalt president and chief executive officer, DeWitt was championed by Sun as an expert on how to sell low-cost appliance-like servers and was one of the main speakers at Sun's February Linux server launch. The technology designed at Cobalt will play a large role in Sun's development of low-end servers running the Linux operating systemDeWitt's departure is just one of many at Sun this month. Other departures have been publicly announced by the company, although his was not. The company said earlier Wednesday that President and Chief Operating Officer Ed Zander will retire later this year. That announcement came just days after John Shoemaker, Sun's executive vice president of computer systems and Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Lehman announced that they would be leaving in July. In addition, Sun made various moves to reorganize executives in its software and hardware businesses.

One analyst was a bit surprised to hear that DeWitt is departing before Sun launched its Linux products. The company has only said it will roll out the servers later this year.

"I suspect it had something to do with unhappiness with the overall product organization," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., which is based in Nashua, New Hampshire. "I assume there was unhappiness, some disagreement or something there."

DeWitt had run one of the few successful appliance companies at Cobalt and his experience could serve Sun well, Haff said.

The Sun spokeswoman said the company was disappointed that DeWitt was leaving, but she added that the company has a "deep bench of talented people" who can pick up where he left off.

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