Rant Mode Equals One: What if Sun is the next SCO?

Posted by PaulFerris on Mar 22, 2005 4:47 AM
LXer; By Paul (FeriCyde) Ferris

Yes, What if? Is Sun the next SCO? Is this another company, paid off by the big boys in Redmond to play out yet another pointless FUD-oriented scam, to drag out in the marketplace and courtrooms of the future?

Momma always told me not to look into the eyes of the Sun.
But Momma! That's where the fun is...
--Manfred Mann Blinded by the Light

Please hold your breath until the end of the article.

Let me start this article as politely as I can by saying: If after reading this rant you're really hacked off, you can flame me at the above email address. (Know your rights, I always say.)

I say this because I'm going to suppose a few nasty things about Sun, and I know some of you Linux people are also mighty fond of Solaris. To a lot of heavy duty Unix administrator types, the first Unix is like a first love -- passions rise when people say negative things about your first love. Heck I still have a soft spot for HP-UX, but I'm in counseling for it these days.

Now, it's not like a lot of you wouldn't know, what with a title like "Rant Mode Equals One" and a subject line that points in inflammatory ways at one of the worlds largest hardware vendors in enterprise-class settings...

No, I don't mean Microsoft here -- note, I did use the words "hardware", and enterprise-class, not tinker-toy-class...

So let me describe for you a vendor. This vendor received a large cash-infusion from Microsoft recently. This vendor is feeling the heat from Linux in the sales area and has been recently using tactics that some would call "insanely stupid". Stupid, because this vendor has been attacking Linux head-on. This vendor did not listen to past ominous warnings from community members long ago that attacking Linux was akin to thrashing at the ocean with a sword. This vendor's revenue stream is falling, with direct accountability to the Linux phenomena.

And if you're paying attention, the "this vendor" noun could apply to either Sun or SCO -- the only differences are:

  1. Sun has "Open-Sourced" their Solaris operating system (SCO did not).
  2. SCO received millions of dollars as a settlement for supposed "Unix copyright infringement" [1]
  3. Sun received over a billion dollars in cash [2] to settle on-going disputes with Microsoft.
Factor in this little tidbit of information [3], where Sun paid SCO a license fee for Unix "intellectual property", and things really start to get interesting.

The difference in the magnitude of the cash should be rather telling here. For one thing, Sun's operational costs dwarf those of SCO, and for another, their revenue stream has been orders of magnitude higher.

But I wonder... I wonder if it's not another thing altogether. I wonder aloud, if Sun has been paid off -- not directly of course, that would be legally troublesome -- to play out a battle that has more of a marketing focus as compared to the legal battle that SCO wrought. SCO played this legal battle for the most part, in my humble opinion (oh no, I can't prove this mind you) to see what kind of marketing damage a good on-going lawsuit would have on Linux sales. And also for the most part, given this hypothetical *cough* supposition, I believe that the cash was wasted.

Again, in my humble opinion, the proof that it's not working is in the pudding: Linux sales are still happily rising, and mainly there's no more cash infusion forthcoming for SCO. The obvious fact is that good old fashioned Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt (FUD) tactics are simply having far less impact today than they used to.

This is due to quite a few factors, but the biggest one, this thing called the Internet, I would count among the most powerful. Right in second place with that would go the fact that most business decisions that give Linux a fair shake in the enterprise arena make the obvious choice to the GNU side of the equation. I'm talking from experience here, in case anyone is interested.

So, the SCO legal stuff didn't work. What to do? How about pick another embattled vendor, a much larger one, with much more at stake. Have that vendor try a different tactic. Have that vendor open source an operating system that is similar to Linux, only with a more destructive impact on cross-licensing pollution. Yes, Suns' choice of not to go with the GPL, In my not so humble opinion, is an attempt to lure code from Solaris into the Linux code-base. From there it's lawsuit time again.

Possibly from there it's Solaris switch time as well -- in someones' fantasy land, maybe, but in reality, something hair-brained like this will simply not work.

This isn't much different (long-term) from the SCO debacle, except for a couple of factors. There's a lot more cash at stake in this gamble, and the motivational aspects of copying Solaris code into Linux are much higher.

Before you laugh at what a crazy long-shot this is, bear in mind that shortly before the SCO lawsuit, they published a bunch of old SCO code right on their website, available for download -- and yanked it later. Bait, some people called it.

Linux could possibly use some of the things Solaris 10 has going for it, whereas copying things from the SCO code base would be likened to someone ripping off rusted junk car fenders to polish up a new sports car. Not that I think SCO was all that bad, mind you, but compared to Linux ..... let's just say it was all that bad, and move on.

I have similar opinions about Solaris -- except for one obvious, glaring fact. Solaris, unlike SCO's Unix, grew up on big iron, with big iron features. Mind you, at the user interface level, it's not Linux -- but a lot of Unix these days looks long in the tooth at the human interface level.

So that brings us back to square one: Is Sun the next SCO? Is this another company, paid off by the big boys in Redmond to play out yet another pointless FUD-oriented scam, to drag out in the marketplace and courtrooms of the future?

I have no idea. But you have to admit, it's an interesting thought.

"But what about Open Office?" You might say. I'd say that Sun is a huge corporation, and that if a dirty deal like this was made -- it was made at the top, and out of the realm of the mere mortals that might have open-source tendencies near the bottom. "But what about Java?" You might say. Yeah, what about Java? What about this problem child that Sun birthed, and that IBM and others helped raise into the enterprise-class adult it is today. Sun has yet to do the right thing with Java -- put a GPL license on the language portion of the code.


Those of you holding your breath can fall down now.

Paul (Fericyde) Ferris is a husband, father, Linux geek, and more. FeriCyde Chat is an LXer.com feature.


  1. This story in eweek shows that even after bodies and bullets are found, no one can say for certain that Microsoft pulled the trigger on the SCO cash. Oh, and the Sun doesn't set in the West anymore...
  2. And this trip down memory lane from April 2nd of last year shows that no April fools day joke spins quite like reality itself. It's entitled "Bill and Scott: Let's be friends", and lists infusions of cash from Microsoft to Sun totaling over a billion dollars. The world thinks it's all about Cash; I'd say that it's likely more about Power -- Bill has plenty of cash -- what does he need from Scotty?
  3. An article in newfactor.com where Sun announces a cash payment to SCO for "intellectual property". Maybe they were desperately in need of the rights to some of the old 286 Zenix code?

Return to the LXer Features

Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Correction and some other info cjcox 3 2,129 Mar 24, 2005 7:49 AM
Paul! Wrong Wrong Wrong! Bad Paul Bad! devnet 13 2,671 Mar 23, 2005 7:02 AM
The OpenOffice/MSOffice link: this all makes sense! hkwint 7 2,173 Mar 23, 2005 3:51 AM
I'm bitter too! SeanConnery315 2 2,096 Mar 22, 2005 11:18 AM
The next SCO and the next Data General tadelste 0 2,468 Mar 22, 2005 7:24 AM

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