New kid on the Linux block: SCO

Long-time Unix stalwart SCO is getting into the Linux business, with its own Linux release. Some say it was just a matter of time

PC Unix stalwart SCO is doing the inevitable -- or the unthinkable, depending on your interpretation. It is expected to field its own Linux operating system in the fourth quarter of this year. SCO is expected to make its Linux plans public sometime this summer.

SCO officials refused to comment, but sources said a SCO Linux distribution is definitely in the works. A shipping version is due in the fourth quarter, with advanced Internet service and 64-bit versions expected in the first quarter of 2001. Company profile: SCO Inc.

According to sources, the features slated for the first release of the SCO Linux distribution include standard Linux kernel 2.2.16; enhanced clustering (up to 12+ boxes); enhanced symmetric multiprocessing (up to 32 processors); advanced file and print services for Linux, multiple server management from a single console; integrated backup (via Computer Associates' ArcServeIT); and, as an add-on option, SCO Tarantella application-compatibility middleware.

Once SCO makes its intentions official, it will join a growing number of other companies -- among them Corel and Oracle -- that are marketing their own Linux distributions.

To some, SCO's decision to sell Linux is simply the natural culmination of a number of Linux-related moves the company has made over the past several months. To others, SCO's decision to jump into the Linux fray is little more than an attempt to bolster its sagging Unix revenues.

Some SCO officials have denied prior reports that SCO had plans to sell Linux, while others merely have refused to comment. But there is no doubt that SCO has become increasingly Linux-friendly and Linux-savvy in the past year.

In early May, the company announced it had become a charter member of the Free Standards Group, an organization that is supporting the Linux Standard Base, a platform aimed at providing application developers with a single, common Linux development target. SCO also is a corporate member of the Linux International trade organization.

SCO made investments of undisclosed amounts in one of the top four Linux distributors, Caldera Systems, and in LinuxMall.com. It formed a strategic alliance with another of the Linux Big Four, TurboLinux. SCO has announced a number of professional services offerings around TurboLinux's TurboLinux and SuSE's Linux. And the company already has an official SCO Linux and open-source Web page.

Even before it begins selling a SCO Linux product, the company will need to differentiate its offering from those of its growing number of Linux OS rivals, as well as from its own stable of OS products.

SCO currently sells its own PC Unix product -- called OpenServer -- as well as UnixWare, a version of Intel Unix that SCO purchased from Novell. Linux has proven a serious competitor to Intel Unix, especially in the price-sensitive ISP/application service space.

SCO partner Caldera characterised the possible SCO Linux as almost inevitable. Ransom Love, CEO of Caldera Systems, said "since Linux is now Unix and that's the Internet," the move was a natural for SCO.

Love added that any kind of move on SCO's part to "unify Unix and Linux" would be "very positive."

Paul McNamara, Red Hat's VP of business development agreed.

"The fact that they're even considering putting out a Linux distribution shows that they're aware of the growth and corporate adoption of open-source Linux over Unix," McNamara said.

There could be downsides to SCO's move for the Linux market, however. Both Caldera and Red Hat said the introduction of any kind of non-standard Linux that might include SCO-proprietary features could result in industry fragmentation.

Has the Linux bubble burst? And if it has, is that necessarily a bad thing, or simply a sign of maturity? Regardless of the rhetoric, Mary Jo Foley believes there is enough promise in the basic concept that software is best developed via a cooperative, rather than a competitive model. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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