Internet hosting company buys SCO IP license for Linux

A Houston-based company has become the first to publicly acknowledge buying a Linux intellectual property (IP) license from The SCO Group Inc. (SCO), the Utah-based company, which claims to be the rightful owner of Unix.

EV1Servers.Net, the hosting division of Everyones Internet (EV1.Net), on Monday announced it signed a deal with SCO last week after it EV1.Net was sent a warning letter from SCO informing it of the alleged intellectual property (IP) violations of Linux, the company said. Blake Stowell, a spokesperson for SCO in Lindon, Utah, said the deal was in the seven-figure range (US$).

“Our current and future users now enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that their Web sites and data are hosted on a SCO IP-compliant platform,” said Robert Marsh, CEO of EV1.Net, in a statement.

SCO has claimed that IBM illegally contributed elements of Unix code to the Linux project and has sued Big Blue for US$5 billion dollars. As a result, SCO has asserted that it owns rights to Linux and claims users of the open source operating system should buy a license to use Linux. SCO is also embroiled in related lawsuits against Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc.

Red Hat, Novell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. have all offered its Linux users indemnification against litigation, meaning if SCO wins the lawsuits against IBM and Novell then Red Hat, Novell and HP have promised to pick up the legal tab if their customers are sued.

Marsh would not reveal the specifics of EV1.Net’s deal but said the license would cover thousands of Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers housed at EV1.Net’s Houston data centre as well as new Linux servers being added to the company’s new facility opening in Houston later this week.

EV1Servers.Net manages about 20,000 servers for its worldwide customers. The company said on its Web site that it uses servers it has developed in house as well as some from Dell Corp., HP and Compaq. The servers run either Linux or Windows platforms from Microsoft Corp., but the company did not indicate which versions of Windows or which Linux distributions are currently in use, aside from Red Hat.

“This is the first company that has been willing to go public,” said Chris Sontag senior vice-president and general manager, SCO Source Division at SCO in Lindon, Utah. “We haven’t been willing to push it on anyone because we didn’t want anyone to be subject to the denial of service attacks [we experienced].”

In early February SCO’s Web site was downed as computers infected with the MyDoom worm launched an attack against the company. Microsoft was also a target of the worm and there was speculation within the IT industry that the two companies were chosen for their views on Linux. Those responsible for MyDoom have not be caught and so far no connections to the Linux community have been discovered.

Sontag said SCO has sold other IP licenses for Linux but and would not specify how many or to whom. EV1Servers.Net does not have a license for SCO’s Unix.

Although Sontag said this announcement would give momentum to SCO’s case against IBM, some Linux users and industry analysts remain unmoved.

Al Gillen, research director, system software at IDC Ltd. in Framingham, Mass. said the most immediate effect the announcement will have is keeping SCO in the news.

“I’m not sure this is going to fundamentally change things for companies evaluating a SCO license,” Gillen said. “Will they buy a SCO license today because of that [announcement]? I’m not sure it’s going to have that direct cause and effect relationship.”

Guy Davis, a Linux user in Calgary, agreed with Gillen.

“I don’t think this changes much,” he said. “I’m unsure why this particular Internet Service Provider [ISP] would choose to buy a license given that most of what I’ve read about the situation indicates there are way too many question marks regarding this issue for any responsible businessperson to decide to pay for this license.”

Davis said he viewed buying a SCO IP license for Linux before the SCO/IBM lawsuit is settled as giving SCO free money.

“I think from a businessperson’s point of view, being responsible to the shareholders means sitting back and waiting to see how things unfold and then taking action. At this point it’s too soon to rush out and start throwing money around for something that might pan out to be nothing more than hype,” he said.

— With files from IDG News Service

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