Linux Kernel Patents

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-08-05 Print this article Print

IBM also made friends and influenced others in the Linux community when Nick Donofrio, the companys senior vice president of technology and manufacturing, announced Wednesday that it would not enforce its patents covering Linux kernel technologies. Still, as open-source leader Bruce Perens said, many at the show expressed that theyd "like a signed document to that effect, because managements change and corporate goals change."

Because of IP (intellectual property) claims, Doug Levin, CEO and president of Black Duck Software Inc., said he thinks IP insurance is going to become a hot area. But he thinks it might not pan out in quite the way that OSRM (Open Source Risk Management), an open-source IP analysis and insurance group, thinks it might.

"We believe that large enterprises already have significant insurance policies in place, and in those policies, clauses such as errors and omissions and director and officers liability insurance may already offer some coverage—and in any case could be augmented to cover open-source IP risks with their current carriers," Levin said. "The difficulty for OSRM is if they prove theres a market, and many people are concerned about these issues, they may quickly face competition from other insurance carriers."

Most of the established companies at LinuxWorld wont be facing new competition. The showroom floor was filled with familiar Linux names such as Penguin Computing Inc. and Scyld Software among the smaller players, plus Dell Inc., IBM, Sun and HP, to mention a few of the big boys.

But you also could find companies that the enterprise space knows well finally throwing their hat into the Linux ring. Perhaps the most surprising of these was Unisys Corp., long a strong Microsoft partner, which announced Linux support for its Intel-powered ES7000 server line.

Click here to read more about Unisys bringing Linux to high-end systems. If you looked closely, however, you could find newcomers such as Specifix Inc. Specifix CEO Kim Knuttila and I sat down briefly, and he explained more to me about his companys business plan. Specifix designs specialized Linux distributions for customers with particular needs. So far, that sounds like a system integrator or companies such as Progeny Linux Systems Inc. that offer advanced system integration. Specifix offers more than that just that, though.

The company offers more development and deployment control with Conary. This is a distributed software management system for building, deploying and managing a single Linux code base across multiple configurations and hardware platforms. It is also a replacement technology for Linux package management solutions such as Red Hats RPM and Debians dpkg.

Conarys net result, according to Knuttila, is that it gives customers finer control of the Linux development process all the way from the design stage to the delivery stage. This in turn makes it easier to deliver extremely customized Linuxes for any given system, Knuttila said. "This lets us give the real power of open source—being able to modify code to your needs—into the hands of users," he said.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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