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TCO not SCO will decide fate of users' Linux deployment plans

Computer Weekly reporters

Users seek to rely on indemnities to protect them from SCO pressure as suppliers press the case for Linux on the desktop.

Organisations using or considering the use of the Linux operating system are unlikely to let legal threats by SCO influence their deployment decisions.

SCO last week stepped up attempts to assert its intellectual property rights over the Linux kernel by announcing that it was extending its demand for licence payments to small and medium-sized businesses. This followed last year's efforts to ask for licence payments from 1,500 multinationals.

In a straw poll at a meeting last week of Tif, the Corporate IT Forum, to discuss the business issues of adopting Linux, 78% said the outcome of SCO's claim to own code in the Linux kernel would make no difference to their deployment decisions.

Some 22% said they would be less likely to adopt Linux if SCO proved its case.

Delegates at the Tif meeting, which included more than 30 representatives from user organisations, including 10 FTSE 100 companies, were focused on total cost of ownership, said Tif chairman David Roberts.

Corporate users were looking at open source because of the perceived cost of Microsoft products and its dominant market position, he said.

"If the business case for open source makes sense, organisations will press ahead regardless," Roberts told Computer Weekly.

Richard Steel, head of IT at Newham Council, which last year carried out trials on whether to migrate to open source before deciding to stay with Microsoft, said the issue of indemnities from Linux distributors was important.

"Had we decided on an open source deployment at Newham, we would have insisted that suppliers offered us a complete indemnity against any enforceable action by SCO," Steel told Computer Weekly.

What suppliers are offering to indemnify users against SCO       

Red Hat 

Red Hat's Open Source Assurance programme will protect all existing and future Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers from potential lawsuits. 

Red Hat will replace any software code that allegedly infringes on other code, so users and developers can continue to work with the products. Legal help will also be made available from the Open Source Now Fund, a defence fund launched last August by Red Hat to defend Linux users against infringement lawsuits. 

Novell 

Novell, which completed its acquisition of SuSE Linux on 13 January, will indemnify SuSE users from any lawsuits relating to alleged code infringement. To receive the indemnity, users need to purchase a support contract from Novell costing from £5,200 a year.  

Hewlett-Packard 

Hewlett-Packard said it would offer a limited indemnity to its customers using Linux. Hewlett-Packard offers indemnification to customers who have purchased a Linux package directly from Hewlett-Packard with a standard support contract. To qualify, users must not make any modifications to the Linux code. 

IBM 

IBM has not offered its customers any direct indemnification, but has contributed to the £5.5m legal defence fund set up by non-profit group Open Source Development Labs.


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