The SCO Group and IBM are headed toward a major showdown this week as SCO prepares to make good on its threat to revoke IBMs AIX license.
The move by SCO is only the latest in a series, which the Lindon, Utah, company insists is necessary to protect its intellectual property. Critics, however, say its a drastic attempt by SCO to shore up earnings and prospects in the hopes of attracting a buyer.
SCO will seek to stop IBM from selling its version of Unix, AIX, which has been shipping since 1990 and accounted for 15 percent of all Unix server operating system shipments in 2001. SCO says IBM violated the terms of its Unix license by allowing unauthorized access to Unix source code and giving away parts of the code to the open-source community. The 100-day notice period that SCO was contractually required to give IBM before revoking its Unix license passed June 13.
SCO CEO Darl McBride confirmed in an exclusive interview with eWEEK last week that the company intends to push ahead with its decision to revoke IBMs AIX license.
“IBM continues to maintain that its license is irrevocable and perpetual, but the contract we have with them makes clear that if all the terms and conditions of the contract are not met, then it is revocable,” said McBride. “We believe they have not held up to those terms and conditions, particularly those around intellectual property and confidentiality, and so we have the right to revoke their license.” IBM officials said there are no negotiations between IBM and SCO. “[The AIX license is] “irrevocable and perpetual and theres nothing further to talk about. We intend to try this case in the courts, and we intend to defend this vigorously,” said IBM spokeswoman Trink Guarino.
McBride said that once SCO revokes the license, the contract states that IBM has to destroy all copies of AIX in its and its customers possession. SCO also has the right to perform audits of IBMs AIX customer base, which would be done by a third-party auditing company, he said.
“Unless something significant happens, you can expect us to go into an audit process,” McBride told eWEEK. “We are currently in discussions with audit firms to get people lined up there. As of Friday, June 13, we will be done trying to talk to IBM, and we will be talking directly to its customers and going in and auditing them.”
So far, AIX customers are not showing signs of abandoning the operating system. Joe Wurtz, a vice president at solution provider MSI Systems Integrators, in Omaha, Neb., said he has not received a single customer inquiry on that issue. “There are a lot of reasons why customers continue to commit a lot of applications to the AIX platform and why pSeries servers are gaining market share. The interest in new implementations of AIX boxes and IBM pSeries servers has never been stronger for us,” Wurtz said. “This is something the courts will eventually settle, I suppose.”
Other Unix vendors, such as Sun Microsystems Inc., are not wasting time taking advantage of potential customer fallout. Sun is preparing to launch a campaign known as the AIX to Solaris Migration Program as early as this week. The program will offer AIX customers migration tools to Suns Solaris. “[Sun is] also looking at a shared risk migration model where we agree with [the customer about] what a successful migration model looks like,” said Larry Singer, vice president of Suns global information strategy office, in Menlo Park, Calif. “They dont pay for it until we get there.”
These latest developments follow claims by sources close to SCO last week that the company may have done the very thing it is accusing IBM of: used licensed code in an unauthorized way. According to sources, SCO may have violated the GNU GPL (General Public License) by incorporating source code from the Linux kernel into the LKP (Linux Kernel Personality) feature found in SCO Unix without giving the changes back to the community or displaying copyright notices attributing the code to Linux. LKP is a feature that lets users run standard Linux applications along with standard Unix applications on a single system using the UnixWare kernel.
SCOs McBride said the company has looked at its code closely in this regard, and “we have no GPL violations, as there is absolutely no Linux kernel code in our Unix products.”