Gartner has warned users to minimise their deployment of Linux to run complex, mission-critical applications until the SCO Group’s legal claims against the open source community are clarified.
On 14 May, the holder of Unix source code sent a letter to about 1,500 large companies worldwide cautioning them that Linux was an unauthorised derivative of Unix and that it may contain some of its intellectual property (IP).
As a result, the struggling vendor said it was suspending all future sales of the UnitedLinux distribution it brands under the SCO Linux and Caldera OpenLinux monikers, although it would continue to support customers and not hold them liable for any IP breaches.
George Weiss, a vice president and research director at Gartner Research, said that although Gartner had reservations about the merits of the case, it should not be taken lightly.
“IS organisations, with advice from their legal departments, should perform due diligence on Linux and other open source code by exploring its source, integrity and any encumbrances as a pre-requisite to adoption in the enterprise,” he advised.
Companies should also limit their deployments to running non-strategic systems until the merit of SCO’s claims or any resulting judgements became clear and should ask for comprehensive support contracts from large vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems.
One of the problems for users is that Linux distributors such as Red Hat have written safety clauses against liability into their customer contracts, and Weiss believes it unlikely that SCO will withdraw its threats. In his opinion, SCO has already indicated the seriousness of its position by hiring attorney David Boies, who was one of the key lawyers in the Security and Exchange Commission’s anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft.
Weiss also does not expect that a settlement of SCO’s $1 billion lawsuit against IBM for allegedly using its IP would indemnify enterprises.