Caldera Offers a Serious Choice

Remember Xenix? That was the UNIX-derived operating system from a little software company named Microsoft. In 1984, you could see ads in UNIX Review or UNIX World magazine, where Bill Gates was proclaiming that Xenix was the OS of the future. Of course, generally being more into marketing than software development, Microsoft passed the PC version of Xenix off to The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO). At

How things have changed. In 1996, SCO sent spam faxes telling people they could get a $50 trade-in on their copy of Linux by upgrading to SCO UNIX. In October 1996, I asked Bryan Sparks, CEO of Caldera, about SCO. Specifically, I asked him that if SCO had embraced Linux, would Caldera have a market to address? This is because SCO was very big in the OEM/VAR market, and this was the same direction Caldera was headed. Bryan agreed with my theory, pointing out that many of Caldera's IVPs (Independent Vendor Partners) were from the SCO camp. The interview with Bryan was published in the January 1997 issue of Linux Journal.

Today, Caldera acquired the Server Software and Professional Services divisions of SCO. In this deal, SCO receives a 28 percent stake in Caldera. This is more than spare change, as it adds up to about 17.5 million shares of Caldera stock. The deal is expected to be finalized in October.

What does this mean for the industry? Ransom Love, President and CEO of Caldera Systems, Inc., says, "Caldera will further broaden and validate both the Linux and UNIX industries and communities, by providing open access to its unified Linux and UNIX technologies and by offering support, training and professional services to customers worldwide." A good read for the press, but what does this really mean for those of us in the Linux community?

I see changes, and virtually all of them are good. One of the hard-sell issues with Linux has always been, "It's free, so how can it be any good?" Each month for the past six years, we have addressed this in Linux Journal and we have had some serious successes. But, you continue needing to address it as new companies consider Linux. With one company offering a choice - UNIX or Linux - you can offer the potential customer a choice. Those of us who have been in the Linux camp for any length of time know that in most cases, Linux outperforms SCO UNIX. Allowing the customer to choose without having to change vendors or support organizations should help Linux penetrate new markets quickly.

The next big change is applications. While the number of applications available for Linux is growing, it needs to grow faster for Linux to gain significant market share in areas other than web and file service. Having UNIX and Linux coming from the same company will make it much easier to get applications written, ported, and most importantly, supported in both environments. SCO's huge existing support structure is a big win here.

Finally, SCO along with Sequent and IBM have been working together on what is called the Monterey project. This project aims to deliver a single UNIX product line spanning the Intel IA-32, IA-64 and Power PC platforms. Intel has been working with IBM to ensure that the product is optimized for the IA-64 architecture.

Having this cooperation under one roof - a Linux-based roof - is going to make it much easier to go head-to-head with NT for server solutions. With Apache's current market penetration (about 60 percent of all web servers), SCO's global marketing and support infrastructure and Linux in the mix, I think Caldera is ready to give Microsoft a run for the money in the server and e-business arena.

email: phil@ssc.com

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Phil Hughes

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