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LinuxWorld bustles despite SCO flap

Aug 11, 20035 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIBMLinux

IBM files counterclaim accusing SCO of patent infringement.

Any suspicions that The SCO Group’s legal battle over Linux would put a damper on corporate adoption of the open source operating system were pretty well laid to rest last week at a bustling LinuxWorld show featuring major systems vendors touting their latest Linux wares.

Any suspicions that The SCO Group’s legal battle over Linux would put a damper on corporate adoption of the open source operating system were pretty well laid to rest last week at a bustling LinuxWorld show featuring major systems vendors touting their latest Linux wares.

Analysts attending the event say the show floor was as crowded as ever and the focus was increasingly on Linux’s role in corporate data centers.

“If there was a theme, it was likely that it’s time to take Linux in the enterprise seriously. A sub-theme was that enterprise Linux isn’t just about lower acquisition costs or [total cost of ownership] anymore – it’s also about performance, reliability, stability, and real business benefits and ROI,” says Michael Dortch, principal analyst at the Robert Frances Group. “Curiously, no one with whom I spoke with at the show even mentioned the SCO lawsuit, and no one seemed to care when the subject was placed before them.”

Not that the issue was completely ignored. Red Hat and IBM both filed legal actions against SCO last week as the Linux community stepped up its defense against SCO’s claims. The filings came as SCO unveiled pricing for its UnixWare licenses, which it says will protect Linux users from copyright infringement. The license starts at $699 for a single-CPU system.

The ever-widening legal scuffle began in March when SCO filed a $1 billion lawsuit against IBM alleging that the company had incorporated purloined Unix code into Linux. SCO later amended that action, upping the amount of damages it was seeking to more than $3 billion. The company also said it was terminating IBM’s Unix license and sought compensation from IBM’s AIX business. AIX is IBM’s version of Unix.

On Wednesday, IBM filed a counterclaim in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City stating that SCO is in violation of the General Public License (GPL), which governs how open source software must be shared. In the action, IBM also accuses SCO of infringing on four IBM patents and says SCO improperly claimed the right to revoke its AIX license.

Supporting the latter claim are two letters from Novell CEO Jack Messman, which sold the Unix System V code to SCO in 1995. The letters say that SCO does not have the right to terminate the IBM license.

Earlier in the week, Red Hat filed a complaint against SCO in federal court in Wilmington, Del., to “hold SCO accountable for its unfair and deceptive actions.”

Red Hat held a press conference on the opening day of LinuxWorld to announce the filing. At the same time, Red Hat launched the Open Source Now Fund, which it says was created to help defray legal expenses associated with defending infringement claims SCO has leveled. Red Hat pledged $1 million to the effort.

In response to the week’s activity, SCO reiterated its claims and said it would continue to defend its intellectual property rights.

“As the stakes continue to rise in the Linux battles, it becomes increasingly clear that the core issue is bigger than SCO, Red Hat or even IBM. The core issue is about the value of intellectual property in an Internet age,” SCO said in a statement. “If IBM were serious about addressing the real problems with Linux, it would offer full customer indemnification and move away from the GPL.”

Despite the increasingly heated battle with SCO, LinuxWorld attendees said the issue did little to diffuse the focus on corporate deployments of Linux.

“Looking at the products and technology on display this year, I am struck by the attention being given by exhibitors and attendees to management, security and clustering products as vendors attempt to deliver solutions that will let Linux servers – today generally concentrated in the one- to four-CPU range – address very large computing problems,” says Richard Fichera, Giga Research Fellow at Forrester Research.

IBM and SuSE Linux, for example, announced that SuSE’s Enterprise 8 Linux software had achieved an international security accreditation, making it secure enough even for national defense IT systems. Dell, meanwhile, announced it would ship its low-end PowerEdge servers with Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES.

As expected, Veritas introduced clustering tools for IBM DB2, MySQL and Oracle databases that it says will increase recovery and availability of those applications running on Linux. Veritas also announced that its Foundation Suite storage software is now available for users running Linux on IBM mainframes. And HP and IBM both announced Linux-based clustering products and said their network management software products are now more Linux-friendly.

Other news at the show included:

• Novell’s acquisition of Ximian, which makes management and desktop software for Linux.

• Sun’s demonstration of its open source desktop for Linux, code-named Mad Hatter.

• An announcement from BEA Systems, Dell, EMC, HP, Network Appliance, Novell, SuSE, Unisys, Veritas and VMware that they have teamed to give support to corporate Linux users as part of the Technical Support Alliance Network.