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March 13, 2003

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Conectiva's Gordon Ho and MozillaQuest's Mike Angelo Discuss the Caldera v IBM Lawsuit

SCO-Caldera v IBM: Conectiva Rejects SCO-Caldera's Linux-Related Allegations

Conectiva Re-Evaluating Its UnitedLinux Ties to SCO-Caldera

By Mike Angelo -- 13 March 2003 (C)

SCO-Caldera v. IBM:


SCO-Caldera & the GNU/Linux Community:

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) market posturing and saber-rattling regarding its UNIX source code ownership and Linux. On 6 March 2003, SCO-Caldera pulled the saber out of its sheath when it filed a legal action against IBM regarding claims involving the UNIX and Linux operating systems. However, it now appears that SCO-Caldera's saber is not very sharp -- just a huge nuisance.

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

Conectiva is a Linux distribution provider and member in good standing of the Linux community. SCO's Caldera v IBM Complaint does not mention Conectiva specifically. However, since Conectiva is a Linux distribution provider, in effect SCO-Caldera's Complaint allegations include Conectiva. That is true for all SCO-Caldera's UnitedLinux associates, Conectiva, SuSE, and TurboLinux.

In an e-mail discussion, we asked Conectiva's Gordon K. Ho to comment on the Linux-related allegations SCO-Caldera makes in its Complaint against IBM.

A few of the questions and answers are very similar. Normally we would do some editing to reduce redundancy and repetitiveness. However, we want to give you the full, uncensored response of Conectiva, through its spokesperson Gordon K. Ho, to SCO-Caldera's Linux related allegations just the way Gordon Ho wrote them.

Linus Torvalds' responses to the Caldera v IBM Complaint are in our article: SCO-Caldera v IBM: Linus Torvalds Comments on SCO-Caldera's Linux-Related Allegations

Here is Gordon Ho's complete, uncensored commentary.

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.

It appears that the gravamen of SCO-Caldera's lawsuit involves IBM's support of Linux and the Linux community.

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 community?

Gordon Ho: In relation to Linux itself, probably nothing has changed. Various declarations have already been given by developers in the community, including Linus himself. We believe that, allegations that it is IBM that has made Linux ready for the enterprise are unfounded. Conectiva has been working with Linux since 1995, and through these years, way before IBM became involved with the OS officially, Linux already presented diverse characteristics that made it ready for the enterprise.

For IBM (and other companies like HP, Intel, Oracle, etc.) the consolidation and continued development of Linux is strategic for their businesses. For this reason, we do not believe that there will be any changes to the level of commitment that these companies have with Linux currently.

MozillaQuest Magazine: What impact does this SCO-Caldera v IBM lawsuit have on SCO-Caldera's UnitedLinux partners Conectiva, SuSE, and TurboLinux?

Gordon Ho: Conectiva understands that this action is between SCO and IBM and discussions and consequences should be referred to these two companies. However, we respectfully disagree with the statements made by SCO, with regard to Linux, as contained in the complaint by SCO against IBM.

As it relates to UnitedLinux, we continue to work on initiatives with all of our UnitedLinux partners, including SCO. However, Conectiva is analyzing the type of impact this lawsuit could have on our business and will dissect and analyze all the facts before deciding on any next steps.

In paragraphs 82 to 86 of SCO-Caldera's Complaint, it belittles and insults Linux, Linux developers, and the entire Linux community. Without naming Conectiva specifically, in effect SCO-Caldera belittles and insults Conectiva and its other UnitedLinux partners too -- when 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)

Conectiva is a member of the Linux development community and therefore such references in SCO's Caldera v IBM Complaint include Conectiva -- as well as every Linux distribution provider -- including the UnitedLinux consortium, which is made up of Conectiva, SCO, SuSE, and TurboLinux.

MozillaQuest Magazine: How in all good conscience can Conectiva, SuSE, and TurboLinux partner with SCO-Caldera in UnitedLinux when SCO-Caldera so maligns Linux, the Linux community, and its UnitedLinux partners -- plus appears to be bent on destroying Linux -- at least as an enterprise level operating system?

Gordon Ho: Conectiva, since its inception, has assisted in the development of Linux and has followed its development through these years. The growth of the System was made possible by the force of the community and thousands of pieces of information distributed freely on the Internet. Definitions like the POSIX standard and its manual page references have been publicly available for a long time, much like the "culture" of the Unix system, Linux was developed on the basis of these publicly available premises.

Quite a few of the characteristics necessary for the System to be ready for the enterprise was already available long before IBM began to officially help with the development of the System.

As we have stated before, the other members of the UnitedLinux partnership are dissecting and analyzing the facts before taking any premature actions.

"82. Linux started as a hobby project of a 19-year old student. Linux has evolved through bits and pieces of various contributions by numerous software developers using single processor computers. Virtually none of these software developers and hobbyists had access to enterprise-scale equipment and testing facilities for Linux development. Without access to such equipment, facilities, sophisticated methods, concepts and coordinated know-how, it would be difficult or impossible for the Linux development community to create a grade of Linux adequate for enterprise use." (Caldera v IBM Complaint)

"83. As long as the Linux development process remained uncoordinated and random, it posed little or no threat to SCO, or to other UNIX vendors, for at least two major reasons: (a) Linux quality was inadequate since it was not developed and tested in coordination for enterprise use and (b) enterprise customer acceptance was non-existent because Linux was viewed by enterprise customers as a "fringe" software product." (Caldera v IBM Complaint)

MozillaQuest Magazine: Was Conectiva Linux a '"fringe" software product."' before IBM rescued Conectiva and the Linux community? How about SuSE and TurboLinux? How about Mandrake and Red Hat? How about Debian and Slack? How about Caldera Linux?

Gordon Ho: Again, we respectfully disagree with SCO's position. Conectiva has been providing professional solutions in Linux since 1995. We helped with the development of the system making it ready for enterprise use.

No system is born with all the characteristics necessary for use by all companies in the world. As explained numerous times by developers of the system, Linux will grow as new features are demanded. Many features which make the system "Ready for the Enterprise", were already present in the System from the early days and others were included along the years. A good example is SMP; it has been available in the kernel since version 2.0, and was improved over time, with the help of the community.

One of the principal strengths of Linux is its organic development. Every cycle includes new features and old ones are improved, making the System every time, more robust, stable and complete.

"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." (Caldera v IBM Complaint)

MozillaQuest Magazine: Was Conectiva Linux "the software equivalent of a bicycle" while "UNIX was the software equivalent of a luxury car" before IBM rescued Conectiva and the Linux community? How about SuSE and TurboLinux? How about Mandrake and Red Hat? How about Debian and Slack? How about Caldera Linux?

Gordon Ho: The Open development method of Linux is what is responsible for its rapid and impressive evolution. Because it has its source code available on the Internet for any person to study and modify it, Linux has been able to obtain a level of maturity in a fraction of the time necessary for systems developed under a closed source model.

Linux began as a program emulator of terminals for the access of computers at the University of Helsinki and was modified in order to attend to the needs of users over time. At some point, at the beginning of the development of Linux, much like the automobile, airplane or many other technologies, there was an embryonic phase. However, while still in its infancy, Linux was already being used in production systems of many companies in many countries; thus making the bicycle analogy invalid.

It is exactly because of the robustness, stability and rapid growth together with the ease of adoption and development of Linux that has encouraged companies like IBM and many other large ones to support the system. Significant time and financial investments, including those made by Conectiva, have already been made to the development of Linux through the years and certainly the development effort benefits as more individuals and companies join the effort. Further, we do not believe that anyone/company (including IBM) should be discouraged from contributing to the effort with sophisticated equipment, if they have the ability to do so.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Did Conectiva lack the technological capability of producing an enterprise level Linux without being bailed-out by IBM? How about SuSE and TurboLinux? How about Mandrake and Red Hat? How about Debian and Slack? How about Caldera Linux?

Gordon Ho: The technology available for the development of Conectiva Linux, much like other distributions of Linux, was available on the Internet from the beginning of the development of the System. All companies that work with Linux benefit from the distributed development model, through a reduction in costs and contribution to the Open Source code in areas which they have the most expertise.

In this way, the technology for the production of a system ready for the enterprise is distributed from the minds of thousands of people who dedicate their time to turn Linux every time better. IBM is one company that has participated in this process.

"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." (Caldera v IBM Complaint)

"86. It is not possible for Linux to rapidly reach UNIX performance standards for complete enterprise functionality without the misappropriation of UNIX code, methods or concepts to achieve such performance, and coordination by a larger developer, such as IBM." (Caldera v IBM Complaint)

MozillaQuest Magazine: Did Conectiva lack the technological capability to "reach UNIX performance standards" and of producing an enterprise level Linux without being bailed-out by IBM? How about SuSE and TurboLinux? How about Mandrake and Red Hat? How about Debian and Slack? How about Caldera Linux?

Gordon Ho: The characteristics of Linux development, including the availability of Open Source code which allows access to anyone and having new versions released every week allows Linux to attain in a fraction of the time that UNIX required for its development, with performance many times superior to other systems, in some cases/areas, including UNIX.

The methods and concepts of UNIX began its development in the 1960s, almost 40 years ago. As UNIX is a system which is extremely popular with students of information technology, it is quite natural that these methods and concepts are taught and shared among students and professionals in the area. These methods and concepts are shared in a public and open way; like the POSIX definition, like manual page references, or even through the reimplementation from scratch of UNIX - like systems like MINIX, or more recently Linux itself.

Memory management in Linux benefited from large contributions of former and current hackers at Conectiva, including Rik Van Riel and Marcelo Tosatti, the current maintainer of the 2.4 Linux kernel.

MozillaQuest Magazine: SCO-Caldera claims that the GNU/Linux source code is based upon its UNIX source code. In paragraph of 74 its Complaint Caldera d/b/a SCO alleges: "A new operating system derived from and based on UNIX recently has become popular among computer enthusiasts for use on personal, educational-based, and not-for-profit projects and initiatives. This operating system is named Linux."

However, prominent members of the Linux, GNU/Linux, and UNIX communities have denied SCO-Caldera's claims that Linux was derived from UNIX. Rather, they say Linux was built from the ground up and independently of the UNIX source code.

What's your take on this? Is Linux code a derivative of UNIX code?

Gordon Ho: As stated previously, Linux was developed without any basis on the source code of other operating systems, but yes on its functionalities. Linux was developed from square one by a community of engineers who dedicate a large part of their time debating over the Internet, in discussion lists like the Linux kernel, on how the implement and develop in the best way possible different parts of the system.

See Conclusion on Page 2 ----->


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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