Although the merits of The SCO Group's legal claims against Linux are questionable, companies using Linux shouldn't take the matter lightly, according to Gartner.
The possibility that SCO will act on its warning that it may sue Linux users is remote, but companies should nonetheless take steps to protect themselves, Gartner analyst George Weiss wrote in a research note Wednesday.
SCO sued IBM in March for US$1 billion, alleging IBM misappropriated and misused SCO's Unix intellectual property to benefit IBM's Linux business. SCO executives have further stated that the company has evidence that Unix code it owns has been copied into the Linux kernel as well as into Linux software outside the kernel.
Gartner's recommendations for companies using Linux include:
- Minimizing the use of Linux in "complex, mission-critical systems" until the dust clears on how valid SCO's claims are.
- Securing a "comprehensive" support contract that covers pre-installation, configuration testing and operating-system certification for large Linux deployments on platforms from major vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Dell Computer.
- Having the IS and legal departments examine closely any Linux or open-source software before adopting it, with a focus on where it came from and how it was put together.
Weiss points out that SCO is unlikely to pull back from its legal threats, and that a settlement between SCO and IBM wouldn't insulate Linux users from lawsuits.
He speculates on various motivations for SCO's lawsuit:
- SCO investors could win big if IBM decides to solve the matter by buying the company.
- SCO could boost its revenue stream with additional royalties from Linux users, if it triumphs in court.
- SCO's Linux business, which it exited last week, was trailing competitors such as Red Hat and SuSE Linux, and its Unix business represents a small fraction of the market.
If SCO doesn't settle with IBM, doesn't gets bought and loses in court, it will find itself in a difficult place, having bet on Unix against Linux, which was a mistake, Weiss wrote.