SCO Bulletin (1999)

The SCO Benelux information bulletin of August 1999, (a 3 sheet flyer, targeted at SCO partners and customers in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg) is mostly devoted to slamming down on Linux in a rather unpleasant way. Full of innuendo, half truths, and misrepresentations.

The article presents many of the well-known counter arguments for Linux that have been repeatedly debunked in the years before. The claim that Linux is just a desktop system and has no position on the server market is almost too ridiculous to believe that they would actually write that. The old "no support", "who is accountable", and "security" arguments are used extensively. Naturally, the word "free" is repeatedly used in the sense of "gratis", hoping to confuse the issue. FUD in optima forma, with no substance to back it up. Some of the arguments are actually more true when turned around 180 degrees. It seems fair to conclude that SCO has managed to cause serious damage to their credibility as trustworthy partners of the Open Source development community.

In September 1999, SCO Benelux has replaced the original link via which the PDF file of the bulletin could be downloaded by a redirection to a page with what they now call SCO's official view on Linux. SCO Benelux has said that “the original bulletin should not be further distributed”, so it's taken off their web site. The original PDF file is still available for anyone interested (thanks to Linux Weekly News for providing this link).

Here is the Linux article, quoted verbatim[1] from SCO Benelux information bulletin, Issue 3, August 1999, in red, with the comments of X/OS added in green:

SCO and the Linux Phenomenon

UNIX is once again back on the corporate agenda. Presently, you would be hard pushed to find an IT magazine that doesn't have an article about Linux, and now, rather than tackle the questions of SCO vs. NT, we find ourselves having to consider this new UNIX variant. On this page you'll find some questions regarding SCO's views on Linux.

Why does SCO support Linux?

SCO is an active member of Linux International and an active supporter of Open Source Software. Because SCO believes that Linux and the Open Source community bring a lot of benefit to the IT industry we want to see the continued development of new ideas and technologies that can be used to the benefit of the entire IT industry.

Infact, SCO UnixWare 7 will directly install and execute Intel Linux Products and is the ideal "deployment server for Linux applications".

Does SCO actually warrant that an application certified for use with Linux will work with SCO UnixWare 7, or is this in fact unsupported functionality?

Is Linux a threat to SCO's products?

No. Linux will mainly replace Windows desktop systems to run browser and X based applications, and maybe even some office applications. Therefore SCO feels no threat from Linux as we do not play an active role in the client space. On the server side, Linux poses so many risks which could jeopardise the future of a company, that SCO perceives no direct competition in this area.

Recognized marketing research institutes like IDC seem to disagree on this point, with statistics indicating that Linux has the same market share in the professional server market as all commercial UNIX vendors combined. Furthermore, the vendors of mission-critical business software explicitly disagree with the supposed risks of running Linux. SAP, one of the market leaders for mission-critical business applications, made the following statement in their press announcement for SAP R/3 for Linux, on March 30, 1999: “"Linux is a stable, reliable and viable operating system, developed according to the Open Source model, that has matured to the point where it is ready to run mission-critical applications."

Why is the Linux hype good for SCO?

The Linux Hype generates a lot of interest around UNIX on Intel. SCO is the largest supplier of Unix on Intel with an 84% market share (Source IDC) and 20 years experience. This creates a unique proposition for anybody who is interested in a Unix on Intel solution stemming from an original interest in Linux.

These IDC figures only count sold commercial Unix licenses, not the actual use of of Unix systems. As said above, recognized sources now claim that the number of Linux systems is larger than all UNIX systems together, which makes the 84% market share claim rather ridiculous.

Why should I use SCO for commercial purposes and not Linux?

Linux at this moment can be considered more a play thing for IT students rather than a serious operating system in which to place the functioning, security and future of a business. Because Linux is basically a free-for-all it means that no individual person/company is accountable should anything go wrong, plus there is no way to predict which way Linux will evolve. Yes, it's free, but with the cost of an operating system being only a fraction (3-5%) of the total cost of an IT project is it really a risk worth taking?

Nobody would dare claim anymore that Linux is "just a play thing for students", given the phenomenal growth of the Linux software market and the acceptance in mission-critical environments.

About its "functioning": Linux has a proven track record of operating reliably and running critical applications. Informix, a leading supplier of mission-critical business software, says on their web page about Linux: “"... Linux has achieved enterprise-class reliability, ease of administration, and performance on commodity PC hardware. Linux-based solutions can deliver a low total cost of ownership for server applications."

About its "security": the track record of Linux regarding security is better than any commercial vendor. Most vendors are proud to announce security fixes less than two weeks after the bug became known. Linux tends to have a solution within hours or days, and a Linux vendor actually got torched for not having implemented an existing fix within two days.

About its "future": the Linux licensing and Open Source nature guarantees that it will be available twenty years or longer from now, in one way or another. Can SCO actually guarantee that it will not have gone bankrupt three years from now, taking all its products with it?

About "accountability": so who is accountable should anything go wrong with a SCO product?

About being "free": Linux is free as in freedom. Attacking it on the issue of free as in gratis displays a lack of understanding of the value proposition of the free aspect of Linux.

SCO on the other hand ARE accountable and a perfect point to illustrate this concerns the year 2000 problem: Linux distributors say they believe they're O.S.s are Y2K compliant. We warrant we'll make them so!

Linux distributors not only believe their OS's are Y2K compliant: the official Red Hat Linux 5.2 and 6.0 for the Intel architecture have been certified as Y2K compliant by The Software Laboratory Limited, a UK-based, third-party testing organization (see Red Hat's press announcement[2] for more details). Caldera's OpenLinux has also been certified as Y2K compliant, by Keylabs, an independent laboratory based in Lindon, Utah (see Caldera's press announcement[3] for more details). SCO says they warrant that they'll make their O.S.'s Y2K compliant. This is just not true. Their statements[4] about Y2K warranties just say that they will either fix the problem or take the software back. Furthermore, on the same page they say they will not expend further effort to repair the problem if SCO cannot resolve it within thirty days from commencement of work, unless this work is covered by another contract. Where is the written guarantee of SCO that it will actually make all their products Y2K compliant and will assume full accountability for any damages resulting from its failure to do so? Nowhere, we think.

What about support?

a) First line support will be given by certain suppliers but what if there's a problem that they can't answer? The unfortunate answer to this is nothing! The reason being that because there are so many variants of Linux there is no single company accountable thus the buck stops with the supplier. With SCO products however, a question which the supplier can't answer can easily be directed to SCO where the problem would be dealt with professionally and efficiently.

What if there is a problem that SCO can't answer (or not in a reasonable time frame)? The answer to this is nothing! The reason being that nobody but SCO has the legal right to fix problems in SCO products. With Linux products, however, a question which one Linux support provider can't answer, can easily be directed to other Linux support providers and/or professional Linux developers all over the world, where the problem would be dealt with professionally and efficiently.

b) If you submit a question on the internet you cannot be sure of getting an answer, and if you do, you will more than likely receive serveral varying answers. Do you have the time to test and then select the most appropriate?

Which is true for questions about any product, be it Linux, SCO, or whatever. The difference, however, is that Linux questions tend to get better answers on the Internet, because many of the Linux developers actually read the relevant forums and respond to questions. Furthermore, a large number of Linux support partners is able to provide professional support, so that customers do not need to submit questions to the Internet themselves.

c) The solutions offered to you can potentially contain bugs or viruses which are a security hazard to your company.

As is the case with commercial products, including SCO's. The difference is that with SCO products, you can't do anything about it, except wait for SCO to acknowledge the problem and then fix it, whereas with Linux, you can take action yourself to ensure that any problem gets fixed as quickly as you need it. Furthermore, due to the nature of Open Source software, security problems with Linux are usually recognized in an early stage and often fixed very quickly, sometimes within hours.

d) It is often perceived to be dangerous when a company uses an operating system where the source code is available on the web to the whole world - and that includes company employees. This could lead to unqualified personel tampering with the code of the O.S. on which the company's business depends.

"Perceived" is the operative word here. This is just a perception, caused by lack of information, and has nothing to do with actual dangers. SCO is actually equally vulnerable to being tampered with by unqualified personel, despite the lack of source code. Security experts generally agree that the actual security of Open Source products is generally superior to that of closed source products.

Which Linux should I buy?

Currently there are over forty distributions of Linux competing with each other and as a result there is no single standard. Potentially, this means that software written for one system will not work on another. Therefore it makes more sense to buy a commercial operating system like UnixWare or OpenServer.

Currently, there are many different versions of SCO operating system products in the field. Potentially, this means that software written for one system will not work on another. Therefore it makes more sense to use an Open Source operating system like Linux. Or does SCO warrant that an application written for some version of SCO UNIX will work on any other version of SCO UNIX? The Linux community (including the developers of Linux distributions) is constantly working on standardization efforts.

What about the future?

The future of Linux is very uncertain. The direction that it will take in it's evolution will be solely dependant on what individual developers perceive as important to them but which may not be important to you. As there are such a large number of developers it is virtually impossible to predict what form Linux will take thus putting the future security of your business at risk. With SCO, because we are solely accountable for our products, it means we can plan for the future giving you the assurance that your business critical applications will be secure for years to come.

The future of Linux is clearly defined. It goes where the users and developers want to take it. Development of Linux is entirely driven by user demand. The future of SCO is very uncertain. The current line of 32-bit Intel UNIX products of SCO will be obsolete in a few years, and the future plans for a 64-bit UNIX product of SCO are very uncertain, given that most partners in the project appear to be betting on Linux now.

Who is accountable?

Nobody is accountable for Linux products, not even the Linux distributors. In the event that problems arise with your Linux operating system there is no 100% guarantee that they will be solved, or that anyone will be held responsible for any losses or damages caused.

This statement would be world breaking news, if it implied that SCO now gives a 100% guarantee that all problems will be solved and that they can be held responsible for any losses and damages caused. SCO would be the very first software supplier in the world that gives this guarantee.

The truth is that the above statement about Linux is equally true for any SCO product, according to SCO's own licensing terms. Any suggestion that SCO could actually be held responsible for losses or damages caused, or could provide a 100% guarantee that problems will be solved, would be a blatant lie.

Is there a SCO Linux?

For 3 years now, SCO has supplied free of charge UnixWare and OpenServer for educational and non commercial use. SCO does not supply source code with it's products.

This offering is irrelevant to businesses, since it is explicitly "for educational and non commercial use" and unsupported. Linux comes with full support from a variety of support providers, a license for unrestricted usage, and with full freedom to select any support partner, although usually not free of charge.

Will Linux programs run on SCO?

Yes. On UnixWare 7.1 SCO has developed lxrun, which provides binary compatibility with many Linux applications.

Does SCO actually warrant that an application certified for use with Linux will work with SCO UnixWare 7, or is this in fact unsupported functionality? Linux vendors will actively support use of Linux applications on their operating system products.



[1] We have received some comments on spelling and grammar errors in the quoted SCO text. We will not correct those, as they were copied verbatim from the original (the text was originally published in English by SCO).

[2] The original URL for the Red Hat press announcement was http://www.redhat.com/about/1999/press_y2k.html, but this page does not exist anymore.

[3] The original URL for the Caldera press announcement was http://www.calderasystems.com/news/1999/19990823y2k.html, but this page does not exist anymore.

[4] The original URL for the SCO statements about Y2K warranties was http://www.sco.com/year2000/yr2000wr.html, but this page does not exist anymore.

1-8-2011 - X/OS has moved!

X/OS has moved to a new office, but stays at the Amsterdam Science Park.

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