What can you do to protect yourself in case SCO is successful in its quest? Maybe the best strategy is to do nothing. It is a reasonable bet that SCO will lose or that any settlement costs will be borne by IBM, Red Hat and other large companies with a vested interest in distributing Linux-based hardware and software.
Still, there is no harm in being prepared and, if you are really worried, even take some evasive action.
Inventory your Linux assets - and be thorough. It is easy to spot an IBM WebSphere J2EE application server running on Linux, but the operating system is also embedded in devices as diverse as Dell's PowerApp file servers, SnapGear's firewalls, and Sun's now-discontinued Cobalt Qube appliances.
Although some Linux distributors may make separate arrangements with SCO to exclude their devices from a settlement, that may not happen for months or even years. So you need an accurate inventory, including the distribution and kernel version you are using. You must know your exposure.
Armed with that data, there are remedies. First, the obvious tack - ignore the issue, and hope it goes away. It is likely it will.
SCO recommends that you buy a special licence, called SCO Intellectual Property Licence for Linux. The company says this will keep you out of trouble. I believe it is premature to pay SCO protection money. After all, it is not that likely that SCO will give you a refund if it loses its lawsuit.
Attempt to "cleanse" Linux of any Unix intellectual property. You can do this by using a tool such as Aduva's OnStage 2.0. It is not certain if these tools would remove your liability, however, and their technical impact on your Linux servers and applications is unclear. Keep that option bookmarked for the future.
The final choice: Abandon ship. Unattractive as that option may be, there are alternatives, such as NetBSD and FreeBSD, which are free versions of Unix that are architecturally similar to Linux and have already litigated and settled.
Safe, too, is Sun's solid Solaris x86, which is decidedly not free and is not rich in third-party application support. Porting in-house applications, at least, is feasible.
But for many third-party apps and appliances, you will have to either stick with Linux or spend the money to replace those systems. Is that a wise course? Again, I think it is premature. The lawsuit has a long road to go, and the outcome is unclear.
Alan Zeichick writes for InfoWorld
This was first published in September 2003