SCO Tries to Stave Off Linux

At SCO's user forum, which overlaps with LinuxWorld, officials outline a competitive strategy that stretches from server platform to ISV applications.

LAS VEGAS—As LinuxWorld unfolds in San Francisco, The SCO Group is deploying its users forum in Las Vegas to take aim against Linux and other PC-based competitors, laying out weaponry that includes a "virtual environment," a mobile initiative, and more third-party software.

During a general session here, SCO Group Inc. president and CEO Darl McBride counted off 10 reasons why he thinks SCO Unix is better than Linux, including better reliability, tech support, and "backward compatibility all the way to Xenix."

But McBride drummed especially hard on costs. "Linux is not free," he said.

Instead, SCO Unix compares favorably in pricing to both Microsoft Windows and Linux, according to SCOs CEO.

Where Microsoft charges one-time licensing fees, Linux distributors levy yearly maintenance fees.

Consequently, Linux vendors are playing "bait and switch," he charged.

McBride added, however, that for SCO to expand its current reseller and customer base, more applications are needed. "Were not perfect," McBride told the several hundred North American VARs attending the Las Vegas show.

McBride also said SCO eyes the announcement of a mobile computing initiative this fall.

Also during the session, Sandeep Gupta—promoted this week to CTO (chief technology officer)—gave an overview of Project Fusion.

The planned successor to the recently released SCO OpenServer 6 will support OpenServer and UnixWare environments on the same software server.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about SCO OpenServer from columnist Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.

The upcoming server was previously code-named Project Diamond. But the name changed when SCO opted to incorporate a virtual environment.

Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC, told the SCO crowd that virtual servers, now emerging from various vendors, will play a number of roles in the realm of automated management of multiple OS, clusters and mobile environments.

Citing industry trends toward cost reduction, Gillen predicted that Unix environments can succeed in the future, but only if—like SCOs OS and Linux—they run on PC hardware.

Gillen mentioned that Apple Computer Inc. will also be moving into the PC Unix space, because of its intentions to migrate to an Intel architecture.

At a press conference later, a panel of SCO execs fielded far-ranging questions. McBride said that despite Apples hardware migration plans, he doesnt foresee Apple evolving into a SCO competitor, since Apple focuses on desktop computing and SCO on the server side.

Chris Sontag, senior vice president of SCOs Operating Systems Division, said SCO has already started testing new mobile technology with users in North America as well as other parts of the world.

Gupta later told Ziff Davis Internet that, as an interim step to Project Fusion, SCO will release a still-unannounced VM (virtual management) product for OpenServer 6 by the end of this year.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read more about SCOs plans to unveil new initiatives around its Unix products, click here.

SCO users at the show expressed mixed opinions about the companys competitive status as a PC-based OS.

Bob Cole, a programmer for Software Consulting Services, said that because of interest among some customers, his company added Linux as a platform to its previously SCO-only newspaper production software even before he personally believed Linux was crash-free enough.

Now that Linux is adopting a more stable kernel, Cole said he feels comfortable with its reliability.

But, he added, Linux tech support remains a problem. "Sometimes its hard to get a callback from Red Hat."

Cole pointed to multithreading and support for larger file sizes as the biggest drawing cards for SCOs OpenServer 6.

"The multithreading wont really affect us. But some of are customers are putting out 6GB files, even though theyre doing so by mistake," he said.

Ron Jessen, a systems engineer at Enterprise Systems, said his system integration firm supports other OSes beyond SCO.

Yet, he added, some customers in the retail business and other vertical markets feel so safe with their longtime implementations that they resist investing in new software—even to new OS releases from SCO.

"The only time theyll change [their software] is when they need to get new hardware," the systems engineer said.

"SCOs strong suit is its large installed base of SMBs [small to midsize businesses]," said Stacey Quandt, who heads up Quandt Analytics, speaking with Ziff Davis Internet during the show.

Linux distributors Red Hat Software and Novell Inc. have been more successful in the enterprise space than among SMBs, due to SCOs established presence across a wide gamut of SMB vertical markets, according to the analyst.

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