Enterprise Unix Roundup: SCO's Big Week

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Mar 4, 2004


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SCO steps further into the zone -- the Lawsuit Zone that is -- and names the first two picks for its 'buy our license or else' campaign. SCO also revealed one company that voluntarily chose the former, and it released quarterly revenue numbers. For Unix admins navigating Mac-land without a map, we explore the fink project, an undertaking to port free and open source software to OS X.

Well, the wait is over: This week SCO named two defendants in its promised Linux-related lawsuits. SCO also produced a company both willing to buy its Linux licenses and admit as much in public. Both announcements were timed to break simultaneously with the company's quarterly earnings statement, which, to put it politely, was in need of some camouflage.

The lucky winner of the "buy our license or else campaign" is AutoZone, which uses Linux in a portion of its operations. According to SCO's suit against the auto parts chain, the company is using SCO IP when it uses Linux. SCO is also going after DaimlerChrysler for failing to certify its compliance with SCO's January demand that companies licensing Unix from SCO certify they aren't violating its licenses or contributing UNIX® code to Linux.

The former of the two suits is the more straightforward: True or not, SCO says Linux contains code swiped from intellectual property (IP) owned exclusively by SCO, entitling the company to a cut of the Linux action. It probably didn't help AutoZone's case that it was once a SCO customer -- before a high-profile, 3,000 terminal defection to Red Hat Linux in 1999.

The latter suit is obviously more an opening move than an end game. SCO CEO Darl McBride acknowledged that less than half of the SCO/UNIX licensees the firm wrote asking for certification have bothered to reply. Without an assertion of innocence, it's hard to yell "Liar!" and send in a team of auditors so you can get down to the business of alleging IP infringement and suing a customer.

So as SCO's battle of nerves with everyone who's ever used Linux in a commercial context grinds on, the company produced its first publicly identifiable licensee, naming EV1servers.net, a Houston-based Web hosting company that runs nearly 20,000 Linux-based Web servers. EV1Servers CEO Robert Marsh stole our line from last week, saying "Our current and future users now enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that their websites and data are hosted on a SCO IP compliant platform."

SCO, in turn, called the company "the first hosting provider to achieve SCO IP certification," putting a new spin on the word "achieve," which, at least in our thesaurus, does not include synonyms like "blink," "knuckle under," or "capitulate."

There's no indication of how much EV1servers.net paid for its peace of mind, but perhaps SCO's earnings statement for the past quarter and how much it expects to make next will shed some light. Enough, at least, that we'll break our normal rule of steering clear of stock talk.

SCO announced its quarterly earnings Wednesday, reporting a loss $2.3 million, or $.16 a share against revenue of $11.4 million. Next quarter, the company says it expects revenue between $10 million and $14 million. As a correspondent at internetnews.com pointed out, a straight $699 per license for EV1Servers' 20,000 servers would have amounted to nearly $14 million. Math was never our strong suit, but we're pegging EV1Servers' outlay at, well, something substantially less than $20 million considering SCO's sunniest revenue prediction seems to be about $6 million less than that figure.

So who's smiling through all of this? Well, as SCO's statement pointed out, the company spent about $3.4 million pursuing licensing agreements through its SCOSource initiatives, from which it derived $20,000 in revenue. That is surely enough to cover the litigation team's office supplies and phone calls.

In Other News

» Besides SCO's litigation team, there might be one other smiling face in this entire epic: According to Netcraft, when AutoZone isn't running Linux, it has a large fleet of Solaris servers facing the Web. Alanis Morissette never quite got the definition of "ironic" down, but we're guessing Sun folks are pretty clear on the meaning of "schadenfreude." Even if the outcome of the lawsuits leaves Linux unpalatable, AutoZone most likely has expertise in place for something other than OpenServer.

» Remember a few weeks ago when we said it didn't hurt to pay attention to open source licenses? The Free Software Foundation (FSF), which pays close attention to the GPL's compatibility with other licenses, says the recently updated Apache license is no longer GPL compatible. The Apache Foundation responded that it's working with the FSF to figure out where the incompatibilities lie and how best to resolve them, noting "we hope that the FSF will find a way to express their license terms such that they are understandable by recipients of the license, rather than requiring interpretation of the people who wrote it." Meow.

» PeopleSoft added its EnterpriseOne suite to the 170-plus applications it has already ported to Red Hat Linux.

» A few installments back, we mentioned Linux-on-a-disc CDs -- Compact Linux distributions great for use as rescue discs in a pinch. BSD enthusiasts might want to consider FreeSBIE, a FreeBSD-based effort along similar lines, or its sibling project: LiveBSD.

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