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SCO trumps Sun's open source Solaris bid

Sun trumps SCO by not knowing its own plans

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With so few friends in the world, The SCO Group made the obvious decision today to go after one of its largest behind-closed-doors allies - Sun Microsystems.

A SCO marketeer has seized on Sun's vague plans to open source Solaris, saying it will not permit Sun's version of Unix to go under the GPL (General Public License) knife. Sun's President Jonathan Schwartz tempted the public with the promise of an open sourced Solaris during a user conference last week in Shanghai - although he, like most Sun staffers, won't provide exact detail on how this magic will happen. But before Sun, which has paid $100m in Unix System V license fees, makes the peace, love and Unix move, SCO has warned against it.

“While the details of Sun's plan to open-source Solaris are not clear at this time, Sun has broader rights than any other Unix licensee,” SCO marketing manager Marc Modersitzki told Computerworld. "However, they still have licence restrictions that would prevent them from contributing our licensed works wholesale to the GPL."

We dare say Modersitzki over-stepped his bounds with the last part of that comment.

Sun and Microsoft are the two companies that benefit most from SCO's attack against Linux, since they have the healthiest non-Linux operating system franchises. With that in mind, Sun doesn't tend to attack SCO in public like another large Unix vendor based in Armonk. By the same token, Sun doesn't really celebrate SCO either. Sun has tons of open source software in its arsenal - Open/StarOffice and Linux servers - so there is no huge reason to back the great Utah IP defender. Sun is in a pretty harmless - to SCO - middle ground where SCO is concerned.

Beyond all of this, Sun isn't even sure what it wants to do with Solaris just yet.

"There are a number of details that Sun has yet to work out (with an open source version of Solaris," said a company spokesman. "It's far too early to discuss the impact or ramifications with SCO."

High-level sources at Sun back up these claims. They say Sun has yet to come close to picking either the GPL, a commercial license or a combination of the two for Solaris. All that has been solidified is that Sun will pursue the matter. And that's not even news.

As Sun's "open source diva" Danese Cooper points out in her glob, the company has been "leaking" the open source Solaris idea since 2000. And during the whole Solaris x86 fiasco, Sun executives speculated time and again about creating an open source community edition of the OS for Intel and AMD systems.

Sun, however, faces major legal hurdles in open sourcing Solaris. It's a research and development, IP-focused company with big name customers. Sun can't have mysterious bits of code with questionable ownership floating around.

In addition, Sun produces Solaris on a rigid quarterly schedule. Every new feature is tested and then retested and then meticulously scheduled to enter the production build. Fitting random developer additions into Solaris could be tough.

So why in Linus Torvalds' name is SCO nitpicking Sun before Sun even knows what it's doing?

Not smart to say the least. A wiser company would have ignored the issue for the moment or kept the chit chat private.

Away from the Solaris mistake, SCO requested this week that its trial with IBM be pushed back from April 2005 to September 2005.

SCO is set to report its second quarter results on Thursday. ®

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