SCO's legal threats have prompted Gartner Group to recommend that companies delay deployment of critical Linux applications, determine "whether Unix or Windows will provide functions equivalent to those of Linux deployments", and take a "go-slow" approach to Linux in high-value or mission-critical production systems.
"Instead," says Gartner, "keep pursuing your Unix and Windows strategies." Gartner had previously expressed reservations on SCO's case, but recommended customers minimise Linux in complex, mission-critical systems "until the merits of SCO's claims or any resulting judgments become clear." Its latest opinions therefore represent something of an escalation.
SCO claims Linux 2.4's SMP scaling capabilities are dependent on SCO-owned IP, and has offered Linux customers the choice of paying a licence fee or being sued. The magic tab has not yet been revealed, but Gartner reckons it could be $500-$700 per server.
The threat here is probably more immediate than the overall legal threat, because it's perfectly possible some customers might crack, just to be on the safe side. "If SCO's action succeeds against a few large enterprises, other enterprises could start to negotiate license agreements, creating hybrid open-source and proprietary software contracts," says Gartner.
If this happens or enterprises delay their purchases, Linux could be stuck in appliance and infrastructure roles, "revitalizing Unix and boosting Microsoft." The extra licence cost would hit SuSE and Red Hat enterprise server revenues, ISV support for Linux could be delayed and Sun could "revitalize its marketing for Solaris."
As holding off on major Linux deployments is precisely what Gartner is recommending, it must surely therefore have made some of these outcomes more likely, although we note that it is not suggesting that enterprises cough up the SCO dough right now, and it's understandable that Gartner feels moved to recommend that customers be cautious.
But it's precisely what SCO wants, because FUD Linux piles on the pressure. If (or as) this happens, IBM will have to act to defend Linux and AIX, bringing "litigation to a speedy head, and [keeping] customers from re-evaluating purchase decisions."
Which seems a fair take - if FUD starts to bite, then somebody has to act, fast, and that somebody can only be IBM. ®
* In the interests of balance, Register analysts strongly recommend that customers ignore all this shit on the grounds that one way or another it'll go away. Warning: The Register's analytical reputation can go down as well as up, and frankly we're not entirely sure about that "up".