Linux is gradually growing up, acquiring features of the Unix operating system on which it's based and that SCO sells. One of the features it's still missing, though, is "clustering," which variously means one computer can take over for another that fails or that a job can be shared among a number of servers in a group.
SCO has clustering software it developed with help from Compaq Computer and Tandem, the ultra-high-end computer maker Compaq acquired in 1997. Some of that clustering software will be brought to Linux, David McCrab, president of SCO server division, and Ransom Love, chief executive of Caldera Systems, said in an interview Wednesday at the Comdex computer show.
SCO's clustering software is a respected package that analysts say is ahead of competing products from established server giants such as Sun Microsystems, and as such, is a considerable boost to efforts to make Linux a more serious operating system. But the high-end Linux situation is complex.
For one thing, Caldera Systems and SCO won't bring the full suite of clustering software to Linux, at least initially. For another, Caldera Systems' competitors, such as Red Hat, Turbolinux and Mission Critical Linux, are working on clustering software of their own. And Caldera Systems, with slim revenue and a bruised stock price, has left analysts cautious about its prospects.
Caldera Systems, one of a handful of publicly traded Linux companies, agreed to acquire SCO's Unix software and services in August, but the transaction hasn't been completed yet. SCO plans to rename itself Tarantella, after its server software for managing access by stripped-down "thin client" machines.
Love and McCrab said the companies are working as closely as they can within federal regulations, with coordinated product plans and research operations. At this point, the biggest unmerged part of the companies is the sales force, McCrab said.
"I think the merger is going well," Love said.
One reason for the acquisition was that SCO was embarked on a Linux strategy of its own, McCrab said. The company was working on a software project called Linux Kernel Personality, or LKP, that would allow SCO's UnixWare software to run all Linux programs. The software is a key part of the combined company's plan to have Linux programs run on comparatively low-end systems with Caldera Systems' Linux operating system and higher-end multiprocessor systems with SCO's UnixWare operating system.
Using both the UnixWare kernel and the Linux kernel is a strategy SCO had embarked on, McCrab said, but the company realized it would be easier to use an established product such as SCO's OpenLinux than to create a version of Linux all its own.
SCO has three versions of clustering software. The simplest balances a workload among a cluster of servers. The next most complex, the high-availability software, lets one server take over for another if it crashes. The most expensive, the single-system image software, has features from both of the less expensive options, essentially letting a group of independent servers act like a single machine.
The load-balancing software will be brought to Linux, Love and McCrab said. However, the higher-end single system image software requires deeper support from the operating system that currently doesn't exist in Linux.