UnixWare and Linux Get Hitched

by Phil Hughes

Remember Xenix? That is what Microsoft called their UNIX-derived OS, before they pawned the PC version off on Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) in 1984. SCO, which had its own version of UNIX, also bought UnixWare from Novell in late 1995. UnixWare was Novell's name for the original AT&T UNIX, which Novell bought a couple years earlier for more than $100 million in Novell stock.

Some Novell engineers who worked on UnixWare are currently at Caldera. And now they're getting it back. In early August, Caldera acquired the Server Software and Professional Services divisions of SCO. This now gives Caldera several kinds of UNIX to sell (including Linux and UnixWare), while SCO gets a 28 percent stake in Caldera in the form of 17.5 million shares of Caldera stock.

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, then CEO of Caldera, about SCO. Specifically, I asked whether Caldera would have a market if SCO had embraced Linux. At the time, SCO was very big in the OEM/VAR market, which was where Caldera was headed. Bryan agreed with my theory, pointing out that many of Caldera's IVPs (Independent Vendor Partners) were from the SCO camp. (That interview was published in the January 1997 issue of Linux Journal.) Now those camps will be in one company: Caldera.

This is good for Linux. With one company offering a choice—UNIX or Linux—the customer has to take the most useful and market-ready alternative. Those of us who have been around for a while know that in most cases, Linux outperforms SCO UNIX. But making that choice isn't a no-brainer for companies that also have to switch vendors and support organizations. Caldera's SCO acquisition takes care of that problem.

Having UNIX and Linux coming from the same company will also make it much easier to get applications written, ported and supported in both environments. SCO's huge existing support structure is a big win here.

Finally, SCO, Sequent and IBM have been working together on the Monterey project, which aims to deliver a single UNIX product line spanning the Intel IA-32, IA-64 and Power PC platforms. Having all 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. Given a mix of Apache's current market penetration (62.53%, according to Netcraft), SCO's global marketing and support infrastructure and Linux, Caldera should give Microsoft a run for its money in the server and e-business arena.

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