SCO says that it will deliver a Linux-compatible environment based on the UnixWare kernel by the end of the year. It's different to, and way more ambitious than SCO's lxrun emulator. Engineers working on the Linux Kernel Personality claim that it can already host Linux applications with far better performance results than can be achieved by running the same Linux software on a native Linux kernel on identical hardware.
A semantic minefield awaits anyone who tries to describe this as 'Linux running on UnixWare', as Linux is strictly speaking, simply the kernel of the free operating system. The Free Software Foundation is very particular about this, with good justification. But back to that in a moment.
SCO's Juergen Kienhoefer tells us that by mapping clone processes directly onto UnixWare's native threads, huge performance gains can be realised. "Basically thread creation is about a thousand times faster than on native Linux," he said. The performance boost could particularly benefit applications such as Domino, according to Kienhoefer. Other gains could be made by using UnixWare libraries, and he reckons that SETI at home shows a 4x improvement over native Linux, as it uses UnixWare's own maths libraries.
SCO/Caldera, or as we'll refer to them for convenience from now on, Scaldera intends to ship the environment by the end of the year. At the session, SCO officials said that the the environment amounts to around 40,000 lines of code, plus around 2m drawn from the real Linux kernel tree. This doesn't seem to be the case however, and see our front page for a detailed update. It supports Linux Binary Interface and APIs, says SCO, and provides device support too.
Not all of UnixWare's goodies are available to the personality. For example, Linux applications don't gain asynchronous I/O just because the underlying UnixWare host can do this, but Kienhoefer said they may well ship this functionality eventually.
Now we notice that these remarkable performance claims weren't mentioned on stage at the Forum presentation - and you'll look in vain for them in the accompanying announcement and press material. The reason is obvious enough: one of the leading free software OS vendors is saying that free software applications run better on a proprietary kernel - one it's just acquired exclusive rights to - than on its very own free software OS.
While source licenses are available for UnixWare, it'll cost you, and Scaldera has said it has no intention of making UnixWare free (as in speech) software, even if it could. So while this is a canny move for keeping SCO UnixWare customers up to date, we suspect that for many contributors in the Linux revolution, doing the grunt work to bolster proprietary operating systems isn't quite what they had in mind when they first took up arms.
We did say things would get weird around here.... ®