Those following the recent news of the SCO Group suing IBM for $1 billion for alleged Unix patent infringements may be asking yourself, "how did it come to this?" Unfortunately, the suit may also be causing some IT professionals to worriedly ask, "What does this mean for my Linux server farm?"
The lawsuit claims that IBM caused $1 billion in damages to the Linux/Unix company by hijacking code from Unix - of which SCO owns the majority of intellectual property - and building it into Linux. This egregious behavior, SCO claims, made the Linux operating system more enterprise-ready, with such features as the journal file system, better symmetric multiprocessing and memory.
In SCO's complaint, the company says IBM did this to promote Linux as the alternative to SCO for Unix on Intel. To make its point, the company's strong-worded complaint filed with the Third Judicial District of Salt Lake County states:
"Prior to IBM's involvement, Linux was the software equivalent of a bicycle. Unix was the software equivalent of a luxury car ... It is not possible for Linux to rapidly reach Unix performance standards for complete enterprise functionality without the misappropriation of Unix code, methods or concepts to achieve such performance, and coordination by a larger developer, such as IBM." These are strong words from a company that sells and supports Linux products, along with its own SCO Unix software.
Some experts say the lawsuit is more of a public-relations move by a company that has been in the red financially at the end of its last three fiscal years. But others say it threatens Linux itself more than IBM, since it raises more questions about the "safeness" of Linux as an enterprise platform, just as big businesses had started coming around over previous FUD factors around the technology.
The potential implications in the case range from ironic, to frightening. The company says it has the right to withdraw IBM's right to sell AIX if IBM continues its "anticompetitive practices." Also, if SCO is proven right, innumerable Linux users would instantly be committing copyright violations by running Linux servers with the ill-gotten "enterprise enhancements" gleamed from Unix. While observers say SCO has a small chance against the deep-pocketed Big Blue, this development is something to keep an eye on for all enterprise Linux users.