AIX users unworried about SCO's Unix offensive against IBM

Said one user, 'The lawyers will sort it all out'

Corporate users of IBM's AIX operating system remained unfazed by The SCO Group Inc.'s decision earlier this week to follow through with its threat to revoke IBM's AIX distribution license (see story).

Ken Ebbe, president of Chicago-based nonprofit IBM user group Share Inc., said he sees the legal issues between SCO and IBM as separate from the everyday IT worries of users.

"My perspective is that we get [AIX] from IBM, and we consider the licensing issues to be IBM's issue," said Ebbe, whose group includes about 20,000 active participants from some 2,100 member companies. "The lawyers will sort it all out."

The resolution to the case could eventually have ramifications for AIX users, Ebbe said, and while any court rulings or legal decisions against IBM could be "painful" for customers, "I still look to IBM to resolve it."

Another AIX 5L user, an enterprise architecture manager for a large global food retailer who asked not to be named, said, "It's hard for me to understand how [the case] could affect us."

The only effect, she said, "is if IBM were to lose." In that case, the food retailer would carefully watch to see if IBM changed its product road maps and then determine how those changes might affect the company's infrastructure, she said. "We would be hard-pressed to change our hardware, but we could change our operating system" if necessary.

Vaughn Moffett, IS director at the Atlanta Housing Authority, said he will continue to use AIX to support his 150 users until he's told its no longer licensed by IBM. "I love IBM AIX," Moffett said. "If that happens, we'll have to look elsewhere. I don't see it as important right now unless the court makes a decision" in SCO's favor.

Meanwhile, IBM rival Sun Microsystems Inc. wasted no time this week in unveiling an advertising campaign aimed at prodding corporate AIX users to start worrying about the ongoing legal fight (see story). In the ads, Sun offers its own Solaris as an alternative Unix platform.

"Attention AIX Users: Sun is Here to Help. ... Unfortunately, our friends in Blue have a problem with licensing contracts that could make things very expensive for anyone running AIX," said the ads, which offer free two-day assessments to customers looking to migrate from AIX to Solaris.

Nancy Weintraub, director of competitive intelligence at Sun, said the motivation for the ad campaign is "to help customers who are concerned. It really depends on who you're talking to in an organization," she said, adding that legal officials inside companies are often more worried about the implications of the SCO action than are IT officials.

In a separate statement, Sun reaffirmed to "its customers and partners that it has licensing rights to Unix code" and doesn't face the kinds of legal issues being pursued by SCO against IBM.

In March, Lindon, Utah-based SCO sued IBM for $1 billion, alleging that IBM misappropriated SCO Unix trade secrets by putting some of the code into Linux (see story). In the lawsuit, SCO gave IBM 100 days' notice, as required under the licensing agreement, saying it would terminate IBM's AIX license if the company didn't correct violations of the agreement. SCO claims that AIX is an "unauthorized derivative" of SCO's protected System V Unix code.

The 100-day deadline was reached last week. SCO has since amended its complaint to ask for a permanent injunction against future AIX sales and has increased the damages it's seeking from IBM to more than $3 billion.

Trink Guarino, a spokeswoman for IBM's systems group, said earlier this week that IBM is confident of its legal stance. "As we have claimed all along, our license is irrevocable, it's perpetual, and it can't be terminated," she said. "We are standing by that position."

In an analyst newsletter today, Charles King of Sageza Group Inc. in Mountain View, Calif., wrote that the SCO charges have yet to be proved in court, "so SCO has simply ratcheted its claims, freshened up its rhetoric, and cast its legal nets further and further in a desperate effort to maintain a place in the headlines."

Even other analysts who have viewed some of the disputed code "have been divided in their opinions about its merit," he wrote.

Although he's not a legal scholar, financial expert, System V code guru or Linux geek, King wrote, he has "been around the IT industry long enough to know that what appears on the surface of things as often as not conceals what is beneath. Our experience has led us to have much in common with many Iowa farmers, who are well versed in the collection and spreading of manure, and who understand that an excess of the same is more likely to burn the ground than promote healthy growth."

The SCO suit "stinks to high heaven, and an unmistakable whiff of sulfurous self-service hangs over the company and its litigation-happy executives," he added.

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