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March 10, 2003

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SCO-Caldera v IBM: Linus Torvalds Comments on SCO-Caldera's Linux-Related Allegations

Nearly One-Half of SCO-Caldera Income from IP Licensing and Enforcement

By Mike Angelo -- 10 March 2003 (C)

Note: Until 2001, the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO), a UNIX company, and Caldera International (CALD), a Linux company, were two different companies. In 2001, Caldera acquired SCO. Then in 2002 Caldera changed its business name to the SCO Group. However, the corporate name remains Caldera International.

Many people still think of the SCO Group's Linux operations as Caldera. In order to make sure that readers would know and realize throughout the article that what is now the SCO Group is also the company once called Caldera, the SCO Group is often referred to as SCO-Caldera in this article.

For more than a month now, SCO-Caldera has been doing some intellectual property (IP) saber-rattling and market posturing regarding its UNIX source code ownership and Linux. On 6 March 2003, SCO-Caldera stopped its saber-rattling and pulled the sword out of its sheath when it filed a legal action against IBM regarding claims involving the UNIX and Linux operating systems.

Of the 136-paragraph Complaint filed by Caldera Systems, Inc., d/b/a The SCO Group, six are particularly significant regarding the Linux kernel, and the GNU/Linux operating system, and Linux distributions.

Paragraphs 74 and 82 through 86 of SCO-Caldera's Complaint belittle and insult Linux developers, the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux, Linux distribution providers -- in essence the entire GNU/Linux and free software community.

In an e-mail discussion, we asked Linus Torvalds to comment on the Linux-related allegations SCO-Caldera makes in its Complaint against IBM. Here is Linus Torvalds' uncensored commentary.

Linus Torvalds: Ho humm..

I'm not all that excited about commenting a lot on lawsuits, since quite frankly I want to have as little as humanly possible to do with such things. At the same time I obviously do find the SCO one a bit interesting, since it's the first lawsuit ever I know of that actually involves Linux, even if Linux itself seems pretty peripheral.

Just as well, that "peripheral" thing ;)

MozillaQuest Magazine: SCO-Caldera says in paragraph "82" that "it would be difficult or impossible for the Linux development community to create a grade of Linux adequate for enterprise use." (Without the aid of the alleged actionable conduct of IBM) Is that true?

Linus Torvalds: I don't think IBM would have started using Linux if it was true. I think IBM got serious about Linux because it noticed that it _was_ "adequate for enterprise use" from a technical perspective, but lacked a lot of things IBM could bring to the table (marketing, of course, but even more than just marketing, just the presence of IBM made Linux be taken much more seriously).

So I think IBM's involvement has been very important, but while IBM has fine engineers, the most important part by _far_ has been the "mindshare" part of it.

But what does "adequate for enterprise use" really mean? The marketing and mindshare certainly _matter_ a lot for pretty much all enterprise customers. So in _that_ sense maybe SCO is right, even though I don't think that is really what SCO _meant_.

MozillaQuest Magazine: It sounds as though this lawsuit is not a suit alleging copyright infringement, patent infringement, or trademark infringement (the standard three prongs of the intellectual property complex). Rather, it appears the Caldera v IBM action is more in the nature of a contract or tort action.

Linus Torvalds: Yeah, I don't personally think they have any IP rights on Linux, and I agree, it looks more like a suit over the contract rather than over Linux itself.

I don't think they are going to win it (very very weak arguments, since at least from a technical perspective I don't think the IBM involvement has been that significant, and SCO was losing out _long_ before IBM started pushing Linux). However, my personal (maybe overly cynical) suspicion is that even _they_ don't think they'll win the suit, and it may be nothing more than a way to force IBM back into license discussions over UNIX itself.

So I think that 100-day license revocation thing may actually be the most important part of the whole suit, and that the rest might be just the excuse. If I was SCO and looking at IBM, I'd have long since noticed that IBM has been talking about Linux taking over more and more of their current AIX usage, to potentially eventually replace it altogether.

So SCO sees IBM largely going away as a licensee in a few years - and while I certainly don't have any knowledge of how much that means for SCO, I would not be surprised if IBM licenses are quite a noticeable part of SCOs receivables.

And what would you do? You want to get IBM back to the discussion table over licensing _before_ IBM starts to consider the UNIX licenses for AIX to be no longer worth it. I think IBM has announced they'll drop AIX eventually, but I do _not_ think that IBM is willing to drop it within three months. They tend to pride themselves on supporting their existing customers.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What sort of impact do you believe this sort of lawsuit filed by SCO-Caldera has on the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux, UNIX, and the Linux and free-software communities?

Linus Torvalds: None, really. The people I work with couldn't care less.

The thrust of paragraphs 74 and 82 to 84 of SCO-Caldera's Complaint against IBM is that without the aid of the alleged actionable conduct of IBM, GNU/Linux would not be an enterprise/server grade operating system. Although in paragraph 84 of its Complaint, SCO-Caldera does not directly say it, when taken in context of the entire Complaint, SCO-Caldera is alleging that it is the alleged actionable conduct of IBM that provides items (1) through (5) set forth in paragraphs 84 to the Linux kernel, GNU/Linux, and Linux distributions.

84. Prior to IBM's involvement, Linux was the software equivalent of a bicycle. UNIX was the software equivalent of a luxury car. To make Linux of necessary quality for use by enterprise customers, it must be re-designed so that Linux also becomes the software equivalent of a luxury car. This re-design is not technologically feasible or even possible at the enterprise level without (1) a high degree of design coordination, (2) access to expensive and sophisticated design and testing equipment; (3) access to UNIX code, methods and concepts; (4) UNIX architectural experience; and (5) a very significant financial investment.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Did the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux developers and groups lack the technological capability of producing an enterprise level Linux without being bailed-out by IBM as SCO-Caldera claims?

Linus Torvalds: "Bailed-out by IBM"? Hardly. Oh, IBM has certainly been very helpful, and I like the IBM engineers I work with, but Linux was running on 16-cpu Sun sparc computers long before IBM really got into it.

In paragraph 85 of its Complaint against IBM, SCO-Caldera alleges that the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux are limited to handling a maximum of four CPUs.

85. For example, Linux is currently capable of coordinating the simultaneous performance of 4 computer processors. UNIX, on the other hand, commonly links 16 processors and can successfully link up to 32 processors for simultaneous operation. This difference in memory management performance is very significant to enterprise customers who need extremely high computing capabilities for complex tasks. The ability to accomplish this task successfully has taken AT&T, Novell and SCO at least 20 years, with access to expensive equipment for design and testing, well-trained UNIX engineers and a wealth of experience in UNIX methods and concepts.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Is this true? I thought the Linux kernel and GNU/Linux can handle 32 CPUs?

Linus Torvalds: We still claim 4-8 CPU scalability. Yeah, it sure works on bigger machines, but they are just so uncommon as to not be a big issue yet, and most of peoples' resources are certainly spent on the mass market (well, UP is the _real_ mass market, but most of the kernel people tend to be fascinated by SMP issues, so we tend to target slightly higher ;)

Normally, we end our articles with a summary and/or conclusion. We do not do so with this article. That's because we want you to have the benefits of Linus Torvalds' comments about the SCO-Caldera v IBM lawsuit without any spin from us. You are getting this just the way Linus said it and in context. Moreover, Linus Torvalds' comments are concise, well-expressed, and to the point. The only material in this article is Linus' comments with just enough background added by us to put the comments in perspective and context with the allegations of SCO-Caldera's Complaint. Thus, Linus Torvalds' comments need no interpretation or spin from us.


Please see the first two parts of our series about SCO-Caldera's IP claims plus its intentions to enforce and license its intellectual property rights.

SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community: The SCOsource IP Matter

SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community: Part 2, Under the Iceberg's Tip



Resources

Caldera/SCO 3.1.1 OpenLinux Distribution Gains LSB Certification


Linux Makes a Great Gift

Don't Forget the Books

LinuxWorld in New York City -- 21-24 January 2003


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Copyright 2000-2003 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved
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