When SCO is dead and buried

There was a time when SCO was a great company. No. Seriously. SCO Unix was a great Unix for x86 systems, and, for a brief shining moment it looked like SCO would bring together the best things of both Unix and Linux. Then, SCO's ownership got it into their heads that trying to take on IBM, Red Hat, Novell, and anyone who else who used Linux was a great plan. Ha!

As Pamela Jones, editor of Groklaw, points out, SCO appears to be heading towards Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. For those of you who don't know, Chapter 7 can be thought of as the Go to Jail card in the game Monopoly. "Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200." Or, go out of business; do not come back; please leave the plumbing in the restrooms on your way out the door.

But now what? Novell owns Unix. There's still some good stuff left in there that isn't duplicated in Linux.

We'll never see an open-source SVRx (System V Release X) Unix though. Ransom Love, the former CEO of Caldera/SCO, had intended on combing Linux and Unix, but SCO quickly found that Unix was filled with other companies' copyrighted code. As Love said in 2003, "Indeed, at first we wanted to open-source all of Unix's code, but we quickly found that even though we owned it, it was, and still is, full of other companies copyrights."

Since Novell is a Linux company, it makes sense to me if they were to cherry-pick Unix for any still useful code and release it to Linux. However, in this economy, Novell has been cutting back on its research funds, so this might never happen.

As for OpenServer and UnixWare customers, well, good luck, guys. A handful of SCO savvy resellers and system integrators can keep these systems running for a while, but as the machines age and die, SCO's loyal users will have to switch.

Where will they go? Easy answer. The same place they've been going for years now. They'll be moving to Linux. That's because SCO's resellers are already working with Linux or getting ready to. For example, DTR Business Systems, once one of SCO's best resellers, is still offering SCO Unix products, but it's also a Red Hat partner now.

If you look at DTR's site, you'll see the company is also offering Windows products, but many SCO customers rely on vertical applications. They won't be looking for Windows answers. It easier to port a Unix programs to Linux than it is to Windows Server 2008. SCO Unix to Linux migration won't be a huge business for any system integrator or the like, but it will be a decent small niche for SCO Unix-savvy integrators and developers.

Oracle/Sun, which paid licensing fees to SCO for Unix for OpenSolaris, might have a bit of worry over the legal underpinning for Solaris, but I can't see anything coming of it. I don't see any percentage in Novell picking a fight with Oracle/Sun over the matter.

And, what did all this teach us? It taught us that there's no magic, legal bullet out there that can kill off Linux, or open source. Whether Microsoft and friends like it or not, the simple truth is that Linux and open source are as secure in the courts as any proprietary software.

They'll be more legal FUD over Linux in the months and years to come. Steve Ballmer will once more start mumbling that there's some patent rot in the heart of Linux, but it will come to nothing. Proprietary software is going to have to compete with open-source in the marketplace, not the courtroom.

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