SCO battle part of Linux evolution, say analysts

The legal challenges against Linux by The SCO Group to global companies embracing open source in recent years are all part of the...

The legal challenges against Linux by The SCO Group to global companies embracing open source in recent years are all part of the normal business technology and adoption landscape, said analysts at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

Rather than being dead ends for open source and Linux development, the bumps along the way will, more likely, boost its use and acceptance by companies, said the analysts.

That was the consensus of the State of Open Source Roundtable, in which four leading industry analysts gathered to talk about the status of enterprise open-source software today.

George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner said it was a series of challenges with normal ups and downs, as open-source software continues its natural development.

He noted that Linux is, in many ways, already being absorbed by various suppliers.

"There's no such thing as a Linux supplier anymore, per se," Weiss said, pointing to major IT companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which continue to make Linux an integral part of their offerings to customers.

"Linux has been absorbed as a technology in their overall framework. I actually think that in five or 10 years we will not be meeting here on the topic of Linux because the technology will become so embedded and embraced in business IT that it will not even be a question to use it," Weiss said.

Even as open-source projects continue to develop, wider business adoption will need to be nurtured, analysts at the conference said.

Improved integration and deeper development tools, for example, are still needed to help businesses create workable and more reliable systems and bring open-source use to more critical areas of their IT infrastructure, said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky.

"I think it's still piece parts at this point. The [IT] ecosystem has to be important because no one supplier can do it all."

The key topic at the event has been the SCO Group's legal assault on Linux, which continues to push its $3bn lawsuit against IBM, charging that IBM illegally introduced some of SCO's Unix intellectual property into the Linux development process.

"The fact is, there are no facts on the table yet that are public" about the complicated lawsuit, said Peirre Fricke analyst at DH Brown Associates. That means, essentially, that until the facts are known, corporate Linux users do not have solid information on which to act.

Weiss was adamant that Linux needs its backers to come forward more forcefully to counter the anti-Linux body blows being dished out by SCO.

Red Hat also announced the creation of a $1m "Open Source Now Fund" to pay for legal expenses associated with any infringement claims brought by SCO in the future against any companies using Linux.

"SCO may not be the last case" challenging open source, Weiss warned, adding that these kinds of legal issues need to be nailed down to protect users and suppliers in the future.

Whatever rulings emerge from the case will likely reverberate in the open-source and Linux communities for years, said Forrester Research analyst, Ted Schadler, and that will have a direct effect on the continuing deployment of open-source software in the corporate world.

One of the key reasons open-source software is chosen today by corporate IT leaders is that it allows shared and rapid innovation, providing answers than can be found in months rather than in years, Schadler said.

Another key, said Weiss, is that open-source allows user companies to choose their supplier and platforms based on needs and costs, rather than being tied to specific supplier and the limitations often inherent in that strategy.

"I think that they're rebelling against single-supplier dominance," Weiss added.

Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld

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