Enterprise Unix Roundup — SCO Tries Salesmanship

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Jun 17, 2004

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After its near-death experience with BayStar, SCO is pushing product out the door and turning over a new leaf, sort of. Sun sheds more light on Solaris 10. If you love doing backups but hate running a restore, Mondo Rescue may be your answer.

Back in April, SCO got some unwelcome news: One of its biggest investors wanted to pull out, citing the company's lack of attention to intellectual property litigation, and the combative profile of its executive team.

We'll admit to finding SCO's initial response encouraging: "Unix is our core business, and I don't see that changing," said spokesman Blake Stowell.

We were heartened because as much as we enjoy watching a good legal cat fight, litigation fatigue was beginning to set in. SCO standing up to an investor and refusing to become some sort of perpetual lawsuit engine said something good about the company.

The only problem was, we weren't really sure what to expect. SCO has spent years below the radar, first as a fading company, then as a morbid case study in acquisitions gone wrong as Caldera acquired then cannibalized it. SCO didn't really get back on the radar until it started the process of suing the world.

So we were happy to see some real products come out of Lindon this week, including updates to its UnixWare and OpenServer products.

To recap, UnixWare 7.1.4 is now available in an SMB edition, and includes something called the "Web Services Substrate," which allows legacy text-based applications to serve as Web applications. The SMB edition is priced at $599 for a five-user license and provides the basic 'net services infrastructure office Unix users expect: DHCP, Web server, database, firewall, and proxy services.

UnixWare's pricing makes it competitive with the rest of the big boys in the commodity server league, and slightly lower than Sun's more recent "get-the-whole-stack+desktop" licensing.

The company plans to release SCOoffice Server 4.1 in late July. Features to be included are file-sharing, calendaring, Microsoft Outlook integration, and shared address books. This offering will put SCO head to head with SUSE, whose OpenExchange Server is an "Exchange-a-like" package that provides much the same functionality. And don't forget SUSE's parent company, Novell, which has its own well-known GroupWise vying for the same space.

Does this signal the end of a litigious, trash-talking SCO? Not likely. SCO remains a company in trouble. Three days before announcing new products, the company released quarterly financial information that showed revenue is more than half of what it was at this time last year, including a paltry $11,000 in revenue from its SCOsource licensing program. Doing the math, that means SCO would have sold around 12 servers worth of licenses at full price.

Despite net losses of $15 million, though, the company says it's happy to continue paying $3 million to $5 million in litigation expenses per quarter.

And rather than taking a conciliatory tone about the recent efforts of the Linux kernel development team to introduce better documentation of the provenance of its code, SCO CEO Darl McBride maintains that the changes prove his widely disputed claim that SCO source code must somehow be in the Linux kernel after all.

So even if we're heartened that SCO is, in its own words, making "the largest across the board group of significant product enhancements ... in the last several years," it appears the SCO Wars are still on and will remain so for some time to come.

Sun's Solaris 10 Drumbeat Drones On

Sun's continuing to release news about the upcoming release of Solaris 10 in a slow trickle. The company staged a press briefing on Tuesday and noted a few more pieces of Solaris 10 customers can expect when it launches in September:

  • N1 Grid containers, previously known as Solaris Zones and "Project Kevlar," are part of a FreeBSD-inspired partitioning technology that enables a server to be partitioned into multiple management zones, each with its own IP address. According to Sun, there is no limit to the number of potential partitionable zones per server. The zones are meant to use untapped resources in servers: Sun claims some data center operators consume less than 10 percent of their capacity.
  • Sun's Zettabyte File System (ZFS) will also appear in Solaris 10. ZFS is self-tuning and designed for easier administration.
  • Sun will include "FMA/Greenline" self-healing and fault management; InfiniBand support; "Atomic Operations" (a set of tools or programming libraries); BART (Basic Audit and reporting Tool), a "lite" version of Tripwire; and more advanced NUMA optimizations.

The briefing also touched on Sun's plans to open the source to Solaris. Though many observers (us included) thought the GNU Public License (GPL) would probably be out of the question for Solaris, Sun's VP of systems software marketing indicated the GNU license (the same license under which Linux is released) may be in the cards after all, noting "The concerns and open source questions we hear from customers is along the same questions any company would get in opening up anything to the GPL." Whether that's a real indicator or yet another person's confusion about the broad array of available free/open source software licenses remains to be seen — as does an open source Solaris at all.

While we aren't particularly enthused about the whole endeavor, at least one of our readers is positively jaded. David Huff opined:

"They're just diverting attention from the 'Free Java Crowd.' It will be years before they have the legal ability to open source Solaris. The heat on Sun has been so high since they took the pay-off from Microsoft that they had to do something for the PR crowd. It's more pixie dust than you think ... I'll put money on it."

Sun has been involved in a less than productive public scuffle with a collection of open source enthusiasts who have demanded Sun open Java. We'll give them partial credit for driving Jonathan "Just Being Quotable" Schwartz to the distraction of claiming Red Hat is a proprietary Linux fork. These days, we hear a lot less from the braying slashbots who claim they'll fix all the security holes in the first three days the source code is in CVS. Maybe Mr. Huff is on to something.

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