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SCO Moves Linux Fight to Product Arena

Jun 24, 2005, 16:00 (24 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jacqueline Emigh)

By Jacqueline Emigh
Linux Today Correspondent

With this week's launch of SCO OpenServer 6 at Yankee Stadium, SCO Group, Inc. President and CEO Darl McBride and his co-workers migrated their fight against Linux from the court room to a different playing field--one that's more along the lines of typical product competition in the computer industry.

Decked out in Yankee baseball uniforms to address partners, customers and the press in New York City on Wednesday, SCO officials made only muted jibes at Linux during the launch event itself.

For example, Sandy Gupta, SCO's vice president of engineering, said that beyond the license-based pricing already available for OpenServer 6, SCO is also eyeing subscription-based pricing, adding that the subscription-based pricing model under consideration is similar to Red Hat's. "But we think (the subscription-based pricing) will be more expensive," he noted.

Yet in meetings with journalists afterward, McBride and other execs were blunt in naming both Linux and Microsoft Windows as big competition to SCO OpenServer, a long-time Unix software server that runs on PCs.

In one meeting, McBride, who once spent more of his time defending SCO's legal position, told LinuxToday that working on the completion of OpenServer 6 has come as a welcome relief.

SCO's IP battles with IBM continue, and McBride is still convinced that SCO is in the right. But these days, McBride is leaving SCO's legal struggles mainly to others, contenting himself to read reports prepped by company attorneys.

"It was a real hailstorm out there," McBride told Linux Today. "It's actually been fun to get back to product innovation."

OpenServer 6 contains security features meant to raise its competitive standing versus Linux, said Jeff Hunsaker, senior VP and general manager of SCO's Unix Division, during another interview with LinuxToday.

Specifically, Hunsaker pointed to the encrypted file and file system support in OpenServer 6, and to SSH for remotely logging into encrypted systems. Other security enhancements in 6 include IPsec, for VPNs (virtual private networks), and IP firewall filter, for regulating IP traffic.

But performance is the main improvement in OpenServer 6, according to McBride. "Performance wasn't what it should have been in OpenServer 5," he admitted.

Partners at the launch said they're also glad to see SCO turning more of its attention to product development.

"Absolutely and 100 percent," said Deepak Thadani, who heads up SysIntegrators, a SCO reseller in New York City.

"We support a couple of hundred customers, and OpenServer 6 will give us great opportunities for server migrations and license sales," he told LinuxToday.

As the most meaningful enhancements for users, Thadani mentioned much faster performance, greatly increased large file support (from 2 GB in OpenServer 5 to 1 TB in OpenServer 6); multithreaded application support; and more reliability.

Thadani said he even sees some chances to recruit new business from current Linux and Windows users, due to the reliability factor. "OpenServer 6's MTBF is 20,000 hours. There's nobody who can beat that," according to the VAR.

Also during the launch, Gupta listed a lot of other new features in OpenServer 6, including support for up to 32 processors; up to 16 GB of general purpose memory, plus the ability to dedicate additional memory to special applications; and emulation of Windows 2000 and XP applications, with cut-and-paste across platforms.

So where does OpenServer fit in as a rival against Linux? "We were originally a 'Unix company.' Then Caldera bought SCO, and we tried to be both a 'Linux company' and a 'Unix company.'. We got rid of Linux, and now we're back to being just a 'Unix company.' Linux is our competitor," according to Hunsaker.

SCO is aiming OpenServer 6 mostly at SCO's existing strongholds of SMBs in vertical markets such as finance and retail, Hunsaker said.

Unlike Linux, though, SCO's OpenServer is destined to run on PC servers only, according to McBride.

"Linux is kind of trying to be a desktop platform, and it's also sort of trying to run on devices as an embedded platform. But we're only going to run on Intel and AMD server hardware," he told LinuxToday.

Also lately, OpenServer has been sliding into some new geographic markets in the Asia-Pacific. "We have a huge installed base in China and India. The People's Bank of China runs its business on OpenServer," Hunsaker maintained.

Ironically, perhaps, SCO is taking part in the open source community, even as it tries to vie against Linux.

The company has contributed source code for many open source components, including Perl, according to McBride.

Meanwhile, open source componentry appearing in OpenServer 6 includes the latest versions of MySQL and PostgreSQL; Apache; Mozilla; Samba; and Tomcat, for example.

"Open source (also) means that we have access to the source code," McBride said. "We support these components, but only on our own platform."

OpenServer 6 provides a choice of OpenServer desktop or KDE3-based desktop environments. Also supported are OpenOffice and the Firefox browser.

Application development tools are available for C, C++ and Java, Gupta said. Computer Associates' Ingres r3 database also runs on OpenServer 6.

Vendors on hand to voice their support at the launch included Computer Associates; Hewlett-Packard; BakBone Software, and Micro Focus, for instance.

SCO is gradually merging OpenServer together with UnixWare, its other Unix PC product, on to the same kernel. But Hunsaker said he doesn't expect the release of a combined product until 2007.

In license-based pricing, the Starter Edition of Open Server 6 is $599, and the Enterprise Edition is $1,399. Supporting one processor and up to 1 GB of system memory, the Starter Edition comes with a two-user license. Supporting up to four processors and up to 4 GB of system memory, the Enterprise Edition comes with a 10-user license.

If SCO goes ahead with subscription-based pricing, the announcement will probably come in August, Gupta said later.

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