Last week, I blogged about the possible future of a unified UNIX GPLv3 operating system "mother distro" comprising the merged source code of the Solaris and Linux kernels (and presumably, the source code of other vendors as well) and related GNU stack with associated tools and applications.
While a number of seemingly insurmountable political and ideological hurdles need to be overcome in order for this to happen, many who are close to the industry and who are responsible for "thought leadership" believe that this will in fact be the inevitable outcome, over time. Aside from getting Sun to GPLv3 its Solaris code and getting Linus to rev the license from GPLv2 to GPLv3, there is the matter of the ownership of the AT&T UNIX System V intellectual property -- which is currently being settled in the courts in the form of SCO vs. Novell.
On August 10, 2007, the United States District Court of Utah ruled that Novell owns the UNIX copyrights. It should be noted that at one point, SCO wanted to buy the actual UNIX IP from Novell, but did not have the cash on hand to do so at the time. Most legal experts believe that it is not possible for SCO to own the UNIX IP without owning the copyrights -- so it is simply a matter of time before putting the entire issue to rest and SCO goes down in the annals of information technology history as the company that litigated its way into oblivion.
And then what happens?
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If Novell owns the UNIX copyrights and intellectual property, where does that leave Sun? And doesn't that mean Sun open sourced Solaris under CDDL under the false premise they were getting permission from SCO, who never owned the rights in the first place? Couldn't Novell come back and demand that Solaris be removed from the Open Source landscape, or prohibit the GPLv3 of OpenSolaris, becoming the big spoiler in Unixfication?
Yes, they could. Will they do it? No. At least, it would be in their best interests to ask for something else.
Novell is currently the #2 Linux vendor, with the reputation of being the Mercedes-Benz of the Open Source companies. They're #1 in Europe and their SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is probably the best enterprise Linux OS around, and it runs on everything from x86 to pSeries to Itanium to IBM zSeries mainframes. They've got some great management tools in the form of ZenWorks, enterprise-class directory services with eDirectory, an excellent business-worthy Linux client and server solution with SLED and Open Enterprise Server. They also have a strategic alliance with Microsoft, which I would count as an asset and not a detriment. So what do they need to put them over the top and send Red Hat packing?
Why, I believe Sun has one of those. Its called xVM Opscenter. And a whole lot of other things they could use, like thin client computing software and desktop virtualization management with Sun Secure Global Desktop and Sun Ray Server, not to mention all the other cool stuff that Sun sells to manage Solaris and large UNIX systems. I'm sure I'm missing a lot of other neat stuff in that cookie jar, like, uh, the complete Sun Java Enterprise System. You see, there's that little thing called JBOSS that Red Hat has that Novell doesn't. And 'den dere's dat MySQL thing.
I don't want to compare Ron Hovsepian and crew to Tony Soprano and his Bada Bing gang, but stay with me here -- Sun gets the rights to GPLv3 Solaris and anything else UNIX-related, and Novell gets the right to a bundle of stuff to re-license and use in perpetuity. Signed in blood, with an alliance commitment to support each other's customers. A technology omerta, if you will. Sun and Novell already have alliances with Microsoft. Put the three together, and you get,well... the North Side gang (Redmond), the West Side (Santa Clara) and the East side (Waltham).