The SCO Group, on a mission to monetize its Unix assets using legal and licensing maneuvers, told channel partners that it expects to revive its Unix business in 2004 with the help of licensing revenue and the significant launches of its OpenServer and UnixWare products.
At SCO Forum 2003 in Las Vegas, SCO channel partners will see better upgrade and sell-in opportunities from the company's SCOx Web services platform, the planned delivery of major new version of OpenServer being developed under the name Project Legend, and a major upgrade of UnixWare in late 2004, said Erik Hughes, director of product management at SCO. The first components of SCOx were delivered this week at the Las Vegas conference.
The "Legend" edition of OpenServer, which is targeted at SMB customers, will be refitted with SCOx Web services support, an XML parser and SOAP toolkit, an OpenLDAP directory, better multithreading, open-source tools Tomcat, PHP and Mozilla, enhanced J2EE support and enhanced security with support for IPsec, VPN and PAN capabilities.
The wish list of features also calls for enhanced data management services; a Sendmail e-mail upgrade; improved installation and embedding; and SCOUpdate, which is similar to the Windows Update feature, executives said. SCO also plans better support for current hardware including USB devices and NICs, executives said at the conference, the company's annual partner show.
SCO also plans to debut in 2004 or 2005 a 64-bit version of UnixWare for enterprise customers that incorporates all of the features of Legend as well a major new version of the Unix kernel itself, System V Release 6 (SVR6), the executives said.
UnixWare 2004--SCO's latest stab at providing a 64-bit platform--will also offer built-in SCOx Web services support with XML and SOAP support, as well as better support for enterprise databases and large file support, they said.
SCO abruptly changed its mixed Unix/Linux product charter last year after disavowing itself of Caldera's Linux business and filing a major lawsuit against IBM, alleging Big Blue improperly donated Unix System V code to the open-source community. The ensuing controversy and public relations nightmare has caused some to question SCO's corporate and product viability going forward.
However, top executives at the show said the Unix business remains strong, and SCO intends to capitalize on it aggressively.
"Unix is big business," said Jeff Hunsacker, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at SCO, noting that there are additional partner opportunities to upgrade and add value to the 2.5 million OpenServer and UnixWare installations.
He also quoted an IDC study predicting that Unix server operating system revenue will reach $2.6 billion in 2003, and estimated that to represent 100 times the business opportunity for Linux.
SCO said it continues to have die-hard channel loyalists. Nevertheless, the numbers of SCO's channel partners has been dwindling in recent years, as many switch to more advanced versions of the Windows server and, to a lesser, extent, Linux, observers said. Last week, SCO acknowledged that its partner base had dwindled to 11,000 from a high of 16,000 when Caldera bought SCO.
Many continue to support OpenServer and UnixWare customers that are satisfied with older but rock-solid Unix servers who haven't seen a server crash in two years. But the revenue opportunities in upgrades and value-added services have been lacking, and it may be too late for SCO to rebuild its stature given the competition from Windows and Linux, observers said.
"Most of the [SCO Unix] conversions are going to Microsoft," said Scott Thacker, an executive at Total Systems Technology, a SCO training partner on hand at the SCO Forum. He says the installed base of SCO OpenServer and UnixWare remains strong thanks to its rock-solid reliability, but he has seen little channel business, and has seen the number of SCO partners fall off significantly over the past few years.
However, at last week's partner event, SCO product executives insisted that they will fight to keep SCO Unix alive in the marketplace by modernizing the code and broadening its base of value-added options on top of the Unix kernel.
To that end, the company announced plans to ship next year a version of SCOoffice Mail Server for UnixWare that will give enterprise customers an alternative to Microsoft Exchange. The mail server, based on the company's current offering for Open Server, gives customers the choice of using popular e-mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook and Eudora against the Unix back end. Many Linux distribution companies have taken a similar approach to growing server market share.
Later in 2003, the Unix company also plans to roll out a rapid application development (RAD) environment for point-of-sale systems that will be based on UnixWare and dubbed "SCO Smallfoot."
The point-of-sale software will be customized by SCO Professional Services and can be customized by partners by accessing a toolkit that will be available later this year, executives said.