Ransom Love, Co-founder of Caldera and SCO, Speaks of Unix, GPL and the Lawsuit

Q&A: The former CEO of Caldera and architect of its SCO acquisition disagrees with the company's legal campaign against Linux vendors-but he still thinks SCO has a case against IBM.

In 1994, Caldera Inc. was formed by Bryan Sparks and Ransom Love with the financial backing of Novell Inc. founder Ray Noorda. The company was one of the first backers of commercial Linux. Since that time, Calderas successor company, The SCO Group Inc., has gained notoriety for its legal actions against Linux vendors and end users over what it says is proprietary Unix code. When he left Caldera in mid-2001, industry wags said Love would take the helm of the UnitedLinux consortium; but instead, he left the Linux business. Today, Love is writing a book about the early days of Linux commercialization and the open-source way of approaching problems.

Steven Vaughan-Nichols, editor of eWEEK.coms , spoke to Love in an exclusive interview. Love, who was Caldera CEO during its acquisition of SCO and the contested Unix source code, expressed displeasure over the current developments from his former company.

eWEEK.com: Lets cut to the chase: What did you intend to do with the Unix source code?

Love: Clearly, when we acquired SCO and Unix, our intention was to see how Unix could expand and extend Linux. In a lot of technologies, Linux was going in slightly different ways, but we thought Unix was the natural companion to it.

We took the Linux code that was available and learned to cleanly match it with the Unix APIs. The idea was to adopt Linux APIs and mechanisms to function on top of a scalable Unix code designed for SMP [symmetric multiprocessing]. At the time, Linux was moving to clustering to make Linux more scalable. We wanted to combine Unixs improved symmetric multiprocessing with Linux so that it would have both excellent clustering and SMP.

Indeed, at first we wanted to open-source all of Unixs code, but we quickly found that even though we owned it, it was, and still is, full of other companies copyrights.

The challenge was that there were a lot of business entities that didnt want this to happen. Intel [Corp.] was the biggest opposition.

eWEEK.com: Intel? Why?

Love: I dont know their real reason, but my sense was that they were using Linux against Unix and Sun [Microsystems Inc.]. They wanted to destroy the Unix base on Intel in favor of Linux so Sun wouldnt have a low-end Unix path.

And, of course, there was their love-hate relationship with Microsoft. At the same time, they didnt want to displace Microsoft with a Linux that had the best of both operating systems.

Linux and Unix are highly compatible and should be supportive of each other, but they were being pitted against each other because no one wants to threaten Microsoft. In Intels case, Windows was also making them too much money.

We didnt want to spend years clearing out the old copyright issues in the face of corporate opposition. So, instead we worked on Linux Kernel Personalities to bring Linux application compatibility to SCO Unix (formerly UnixWare) and OpenServer. The idea was to enable developers to write for both Unix and Linux with a common Application Programming Interface (API) and common Application Binary Interface (ABI). That way developers didnt have to work so hard, and Unix users, the client base we inherited from SCO, could run Linux applications.

We were no longer thinking about mixing code; we were trying to create a common development environment. We were trying to keep the Unix and Linux kernels separate, while tying them to common APIs and ABIs.

Next page: Behind SCOs and IBMs Project Monterey.