Enterprise Unix Roundup: Darl McBride's Fantasy Camp

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Jun 23, 2005


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One advantage of being in close proximity to New York City is that product launches, trade shows, and vendors come through somewhat regularly. This week, the Roundup staff took a road trip to Yankee Stadium to attend the SCO OpenServer 6 launch.

We went with an open mind.

We sought out spiffily dressed SCO PR reps in pinstriped Team SCO uniforms (not an easy feat at a Yankee game). We got to see president and CEO Darl McBride don his "rally cap" and lead off the event with a host of baseball metaphors. And, best of all, we took back to the office a baseball signed by the CEO, whose popularity is akin to Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.

OpenServer 6 was a three-year endeavor, with "hundred of thousands of hours of development effort," according to McBride. The biggest change in version 6 is that it combines the Unix System V Release 5 (SVR5) kernel in UnixWare 7.14 into the Web-based OpenServer. The pre-emptive SVR5 kernel supports multithreading for C, C++, and Java applications through the POSIX interface. Going forward, applications that run on one operating system can run on the other, and the next release will fully join the two operating systems into one product, McBride told the crowd of VARs, ISVs, and journalists.

SCO boasts of OpenServer 6's support for up to 32 processors and file sizes up to 1 TB, for both disk-based and network files. The server is designed for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) running x86 commodity hardware. Larger network files will be supported through Network File System v3. The new operating system allocates up to 16 GB of general-purpose memory for general apps, and additional memory can be dedicated for special apps, giving databases access to up to 64 GB of memory.

The operating systems also has various virtualization features, including one that allows Windows-based applications to run on OpenServer in a virtual app, Vice President of Engineering Sandeep Gupta said. OpenServer 6 supports dual-core processors, serial ports, SANs, and wireless technology. Security features include support for IPsec, OpenSSH and OpenSSL, and IPFilter technology that enable OpenServer to be configured for firewall and NAT functionality.

At this point, SCO is one of the few vendors actively selling a Unix operating system. Sure, Apple sells Mac OS X, SGI has IRIX, and we can't ignore the BSDs, but IBM and HP are pushing Linux over HP-UX and AIX, and Sun is giving away Solaris, though it is making money from the support.

For those not yet ready to migrate legacy apps, OpenServer 6 can run existing applications that go back all the way to SCO Xenix.

It does not, however, support 64-bit architectures, which Gupta told Roundup will be introduced in a version to be released next August. "Customers aren't ready for it yet," he said. An interesting comment given that SCO had an early leg in the 64-bit race, back when Intel's Monterey Project was a going concern.

But, then again, Gupta also made the astute observation that, "the days of employees going to the office to read their mail are going away."

Linux Does Not Equate to Open Source

SCO's disdain for Linux does not extend to the open source community at large. OpenServer 6 contains a variety of open source apps, including KDE, Apache, Mozilla, and MySQL, which have been optimized for OpenServer and the modifications made public, Gupta said.

Gupta touched on OpenServer's advantages over Linux with Roundup. He believes that one of the problems with Linux is the lack of actual ownership of many of its components.

As a result, "when something breaks, you get down on your knees and pray." He sees a license like Sun's CDDL as the way to go. In such an environment, the vendor ultimately owns the code but makes it publicly available and shares the copyright on any changes with the changer.

At this point, SCO is one of the few vendors actively selling a Unix operating system. Sure, Apple sells Mac OS X, SGI has IRIX, and we can't ignore the BSDs, but IBM and HP are pushing Linux over HP-UX and AIX, and Sun is giving away Solaris, though it is making money from the support.

Those committed to entering the SCO OpenServer stadium will pay a high price to do so. Although OpenServer 6 is targeted at SMBs (organizations that, perhaps not so coincidentally don't have IT departments that equate SCO with Satan), particularly those with fewer than 499 seats, its price point may generate sticker shock for some in that market.

Why would a Utah-based company choose Yankee Stadium for the launch? SCO's official answer: The code-name of OpenServer was "Legend." Where better to launch this ground-breaking and historical offering than the house that Ruth built?

The Starter Edition is priced at $599. It provides a two-user license and supports up to 1 GB of system memory and one processor. The Enterprise Edition is priced at $1,399. It comes with a 10-user license and supports up to 4 GB of system memory and four processors.

A host of VARs and ISVs (including, Computer Associates, BakBone, Microfocus, DTR, System Integrators, and Cymphonix) were on hand in the Great Moments Room to sing the praises of OpenServer 6 and discuss customer demands, though one ISV with whom Roundup spoke noted that OpenServer sales are only a small fraction of his business. HP was also on board with OpenServer and is certifying it to run on a host of ProLiant servers.

On a side note, we wondered, why would a Utah-based company choose Yankee Stadium for the launch? SCO's official answer: The code-name of OpenServer was "Legend." Where better to launch this ground-breaking and historical offering than the house that Ruth built?

We can think of two better reasons: 1) Darl McBride has always dreamed of playing in Yankee Stadium and knew this may be his last hurrah, and 2) where better to woo Wall Street and keep the focus light on business and heavy on fun.

While it was refreshing to see SCO focused on product, its IP crusade was an elephant in the room, and everyone managed a few licks on Linux, with McBride comparing its maintenance costs to those of adopting free puppy, and Gupta noting the ongoing race between Linux and Windows to determine which is less secure. Pretty mild stuff, considering.

Still, we can't imagine OpenServer 6 will be an easy sell to any size enterprise.

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