Ray Noorda, a giant of the computer industry, died Oct. 9 of Alzheimers-related illness. It was my pleasure to know Mr. Noorda during his best days, when, as CEO of Novell, he took an obscure network operating system, NetWare, and turned it into the first major PC network OS.
He wasnt a developer. He was just a tough businessman with the nerve to take on Microsoft, which he saw as a threat to dominate the desktop long before everyone else did.
Linux and open source owes Noorda another, more direct, debt.
When Novell bought Unix and USL (Unix Systems Laboratories) from AT&T, rather than continue to fight with BSDI (Berkeley Software Design Inc.) over possible Unix intellectual property rights violations in BSD/OS (an early, commercial BSD Unix), Noorda famously declared that hed rather compete in the marketplace than in court, and the two sides came to an amiable agreement.
Without the threat of a lawsuit hanging over the BSD Unixes, and later Linux, open-source developers were free to create the operating systems we use today.
Indeed, not long before he retired because of the onslaught of Alzheimers, Noorda believed that Linux was the future for Novell and supported Bryan Sparks and Ransom Love in an internal Linux skunkworks project.