SCO is dead, SCO Unix lives on

SCO, the anti-Linux, litigation zombie that would not die is finally dead, but it's Unix operating systems: SCO OpenServer and UnixWare will live on.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

SCO, the anti-Linux lawsuit monster is dead. There are still twitches left in the corpse in the bankruptcy court morgue, but when even Groklaw retires from the field, you know SCO's as dead as a doornail. But, SCO's Unix operating systems, OpenServer and UnixWare, will live on under the aegis of a new company, UnXis.

This has some people, including Pamela Jones, editor and founder of Groklaw worried that UnXis might follow in SCO's lawsuit crazy tracks. "Targeting end users? Uh oh. That has a creepy sound, considering the heritage of SCO, if you know what I mean."

I didn't think anyone with a lick of sense would try to re-tread SCO's hopeless lawsuits, but then I'd thought from the very start that SCO taking on IBM, et. al. in the courts was a suicidal move. So, I asked the UnXis' CEO, Richard A. Bolandz, what his plans were.

Bolandz replied, "UnXis has no intention to pursue any litigation related to the SCO Group assets acquired by the company. We are all about world leadership in technology not litigation."

"We acquired the intellectual property, the extremely loyal base of marquee customers in 82 countries worldwide a world class engineering team and a rock solid product on which kernel all new systems will be built. There is no place for litigation in our vision or plan," Bolandz continued.

That sounds great to me, and I know it's what Ms. Jones wanted to hear as well. But what intellectual property (IP) is that? The Novell/SCO litigation proved once and for all that Novell, and not SCO, owned Unix's IP .

Bolandz said, "The bankruptcy court has struck down the objections of Novell and awarded UnXis under the asset purchase agreement (APA) the intellectual property and all assets necessary to run the business. As mentioned above we are reaching out to Novell to partner with us as we see our products as complementary rather than competitive and to cross sell products and services for the good of both our customer bases and the entire market."

OK, that's not the same thing as Unix's IP. The SCO bankruptcy court let UnXis sub-license the Unix source code without paying Novell for what SCO owed on it.

Novell, which is the process of being sold to Attachmate, can't be happy about this judgment. UnXis, which couldn't sell OpenServer or UnixWare without this decision, must be pleased. On the other hand, in the long run UnXis must arrive at a good working relation with Novell or somewhere down the road. Without an agreement, eventually UnXis won't be able to sell either Unix operating system.

There's also the question of the Unix trademark. But, as reported in Groklaw, The Open Group, which owns the Unix trademarks, doesn't foresee any problems with UnXis using the Unix or UnixWare trademarks.

In an e-mail, Meryl Schlachterman of The Open Group wrote, "Under a Trademark Licensing Agreement with The Open Group, SCO is licensed to use UNIX and UnixWare which are registered trademarks of The Open Group in the U.S. and other countries, a fact acknowledged by SCO on its website."

"The acquisition of SCO's operating assets and transfer of its operating systems and software solutions business to UnXis will mean that an assignment and transfer of the TMLA from SCO to UnXis will be required for such rights to pass. We anticipate that this transfer will be successfully concluded in the very near future," she concluded.

OK, so UnXis isn't going to pursue SCO's fruitless legal strategy of the last few years and they seem to be getting their Unix IP ducks in a row, so what are they going to do?

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UnXis' SCO Unix Plans

According to Bolandz, the former CIO of Qwest Communications, "Our first commitment is to our customers, VARS and channel partners to support their existing needs as well as a whole new generation of hardware, software and requirements of the cloud. We can now focus 100 percent of our attention and energies on bringing state-of-the-art technology capabilities to the Unix platform, improving customer service and support, and capitalizing on the robust and secure SCO Unix operating system for today's cloud-based systems."

Specifically, UnXis plans on updating OpenServer and UnixWare on a quarterly schedule and start introducing cloud computing, 64-bit computing, biometric authentication, VMware compatibility, IPV6 and virtualization features.

Bolandz said, "While SCO currently has two basic families of products: OpenServer and UnixWare....there are many flavors of these products being supported that have been in service for thirty years without an upgrade. Our plan is to eventually merge the capabilities of these two product groups into a 64 bit platform capable of running anything on a virtualized platform."

UnXis also plans to provide a seamless migration path to this platform for all our customers and "to offer cloud based hosted solutions in the SMB segment to enable SMB customers to migrate their applications transparently onto the latest version of our operating systems at a monthly cost without spending a single dime on hardware, IT support, power, cooling etc. and accessing their legacy over Web services."

Bolandz concluded, we want to "further enhance our value proposition by adding features and functionality that add value to enterprise computing missions such as biometric authentication to support single sign on virtualization to reduce the cost of password administration, (2) virtualization to support green data center footprint, power and cooling consumption reduction. The objective is to add more value in our core platform than any other available market offering."

At the same time, UnXis will be reaching out to SCO's old channel partners. "SCO's channel partners have been very supportive of the company and the products over the years, despite the legal issues, and we intend to strengthen and grow these relationships. In fact, we have been in contact with the vast majority of the SCO channel partners and have communicated with them regularity regarding our plans and vision for the products and they have been supportive of our efforts."

UnXis will also be trying to partner with Unix VAR, ISV and distributor associations such as iXorg to develop the product road map and to rapidly deploy the SCO UNIX CLOUD to enable customers in the SMB segment to keep up with the latest O/S releases."

Believe it or not, I actually think UnXis has a shot at this. While I've disliked SCO's policies for the last eight years, I never disliked their products. OpenServer and UnixWare, while they're not open operating systems, are remarkably stable. For businesses that want rock-sold operating systems that would work on commercially available Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware, SCO was always hard to beat.

For all that Linux was often a better choice; I also thought that OpenServer and UnixWare had a real, albeit small, server operating system niche. The real question: "Is there any market left for x86 Unix operating systems after all the damage SCO's waste of time and money on anti-Linux lawsuits has done?" is one I don't know the answer too. In time, though, the market will tell us if there's any life left in x86 Unix.

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