Gotta Make the In-Laws Happy

As Caldera and SCO tie the knot, partners hope for a fruitful marriage.

Caldera and SCO will finally exchange wedding vows next month, and SCO integrators are eager to attend the ceremony. During the May 4 event, Calderas pending purchase of UnixWare, OpenServer and SCO Professional Services is expected to receive shareholder approval.

Thats good news for SCOs partners. Caldera couldnt give much support or information to SCOs resellers as the $23 million deal wound its way through the legal process.

When the deal gained SEC approval last month, it freed Caldera to share some general business plans with SCOs partners. Once the May 4 shareholder vote is completed, Caldera will likely crank up the volume on its partnering strategy for SCO integrators.

Caldera hopes to give allies and customers the best of both worlds: Linuxs flexibility and low cost at the departmental level, and Unixs rock-solid reliability at the high end of the market.

Still, Caldera will face plenty of challenges. SCOs customer base has eroded over the years and dramatically declined between 1999 and last year. Its not "clear that Caldera can get that share back," says Dan Kusnetzky, VP at International Data Corp.

Analysts note that Sun Solaris continues to dominate the high-end market, with Windows 2000, Windows NT and Red Hat Linux enjoying strong success on Web servers and departmental servers.

Caldera CEO Ransom Loves strategy, previewed at CeBit in Germany last month, is fairly simple.The company is embedding Linux features into Unix, and vice versa. At the same time, Caldera continues to enhance and refine OpenLinux, UnixWare (to be known as OpenUnix) and perhaps even OpenServer. Version 8 of OpenUnix went into beta this month.

Even before the Caldera deal, SCO was bolstering UnixWare to support the Linux Kernel Personality (LKP). Going forward, that means OpenUnix and OpenLinux will have the same GNU tools and libraries, which stick like glue to the proposed Linux Standards Bases specifications. As a result, developers will be able to compile and run Linux applications on top of UnixWare, which could make UnixWare more appealing to business customers and open-source developers.

Caldera will promote OpenLinux for departmental servers and Web servers, while pushing OpenUnix for high-end servers and enterprise systems.

The company hopes to avoid the type of marketing and development setbacks that plagued UnixWare when Novell owned the operating system in the mid-1990s.

At the time, Novell positioned NetWare as a file-and-print server, and UnixWare as an application server. But the UnixWare and NetWare development teams had a poor working relationship, and plans to meld the two operating systems ultimately stalled. Novell ended up selling UnixWare to SCO, where it enjoyed some initial success before losing momentum in recent years.

Meanwhile, questions continue to surround OpenServer, which was SCOs flagship operating system until the company acquired UnixWare. SCO tried to force OpenServer customers to embrace UnixWare, but many customers scoffed at the idea.

Some SCO resellers hope that Caldera enhances OpenServer with LKP and other Linux-related features. Without those capabilities, resellers say the end of OpenServer could be near.

Software vendors apparently agree. Many developers, particularly database companies, refuse to port their latest applications to OpenServer because its considered to be a dead-end platform. "Caldera talked the talk, but we have to see if they will walk the walk," says a Midwest SCO reseller.

On the corporate side, some of SCOs established hardware partners applaud Calderas strategy. Gary Campbell, CTO of Enterprise Servers at Compaq, says the merger "will strengthen the relationship" between his company and Caldera.

Compaq preloads OpenLinux eServer 2.3.1 on Compaq ProLiant ML330, DL320 and DL360 servers.

Some of SCOs oldest and best customers have already announced that theyll be sticking with Caldera.

BMW, one of SCOs largest customers worldwide, has a lot of confidence in Caldera International, says the car makers European director. BMW is buying the newest release of SCO OpenServer 5 licenses to upgrade existing motor testing applications to the new generation of tester systems, according to the BMW director.

Caldera insists that the marriage of Unix and Linux will be a success, but newlyweds tend to be idealistic. Reality usually doesnt set in until after the honeymoon.