Has SCO Killed UnitedLinux?

A little over a year ago, an international consortium of four vendors announced they were pooling their talents and resources to create a new, standardized flavor of the open-source Linux OS. The initiative was known as UnitedLinux, and the goal was to create a version of Linux that businesses and other organizations could trust for uniform reliability.

By November 2002, UnitedLinux 1.0 was released, and the four vendors — SuSE Linux AG, Conectiva S.A., TurboLinux and the company now known as SCO — appeared to have a product that could take on rival Linux distributor Red Hat’s offering.

However, UnitedLinux has not made many headlines since then, and SCO, one of the consortium members, is now on many open-source advocates’ most-wanted list. The company has sued IBM for billions of dollars and is threatening to sue others over the use of Linux code it claims was lifted from its proprietary brand of Unix.

Is UnitedLinux dead, or is SCO’s participation the only casualty of the uproar?

Oh, the Irony

According to Laura DiDio, senior analyst of application infrastructure and software platforms at the Yankee Group, SCO voluntarily excused itself from further development or distribution of UnitedLinux after filing its suit against Big Blue, turning “this high-tech version of the Four Musketeers into the Three Musketeers.”

However, SCO’s decision has not killed UnitedLinux as a project by any means, DiDio told the E-Commerce Times. In fact, she said, UnitedLinux is founded on a sound premise: Businesses do not want to wade through 30-plus variants of Linux. She added that interoperability and the ability to support third-party applications without a hitch are vital.

According to DiDio, membership in the UnitedLinux consortium so far has been open to any distributor willing to contribute to the communal pot to defray development costs.

Ironically, she noted, Scott Handy, director of worldwide Linux solutions at IBM, was informally a supporter of the SCO-sponsored UnitedLinux initiative.

SCO Not a Heavyweight

Meanwhile, Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems software research at IDC, told the E-Commerce Times that although SCO’s actions could weigh down the efforts of the entire group, the company’s withdrawal will not change UnitedLinux’ dynamics all that much.

He noted that SCO was not the primary contributor to the consortium. Unlike SuSE, which did the primary engineering of UnitedLinux, and Conectiva and Turbolinux, which provided both financial and technical assistance, SCO’s involvement was primarily financial in nature.

According to Kusnetzky, at the time the consortium was formed, it was in all four companies’ best interest to join forces to challenge Red Hat in the marketing arena. Because SuSE’s technology was already well developed, the consortium’s focus had more to do with marketing than with technology.

We’re Doing Just Fine

Joseph Eckert, vice president of corporate communications at SuSE, told the E-Commerce Times that SCO actually did provide SuSE with 15 SCO developers who were participating in the design of UnitedLinux Version 1.0. SuSE has since hired these engineers.

Eckert emphasized that the UnitedLinux consortium is in no way dead. The group has pledged to support and maintain UnitedLinux 1.0 for at least five years. In addition, it has committed to UnitedLinux certifications for such large software companies as Oracle and SAP. In fact, UnitedLinux is the only flavor of Linux certified on SAP, he said.

The Dam Has Broken

In addition, though UnitedLinux has not been grabbing headlines recently, its profile is likely to rise in the future. Eckert noted that Hewlett-Packard has announced an OEM relationship with UnitedLinux, joining such large concerns as Fujitsu and Siemens AG as well as the city of Munich, Germany.

“The dam is broken,” he said. “We have more contracts to sign than we know what to do with.”

So, as SCO presses on with its make-or-break lawsuit against IBM, UnitedLinux will move forward as well. Like other Linux distributors, it may be influenced by the outcome of the SCO lawsuit, but its demise is far from a foregone conclusion. In fact, it may be only cresting the horizon of its popularity.

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