Sun buys paid-up Unix source code licence from Novell for $82.5m Sun Microsystems Inc last week tore away the last vestige of any pretence Novell Inc still might harbour that it will be the final repository of Unix by buying out its Unix royalty stream from Novell for $82.5m, as reported briefly last week (CI […]
Sun buys paid-up Unix source code licence from Novell for $82.5m
Sun Microsystems Inc last week tore away the last vestige of any pretence Novell Inc still might harbour that it will be the final repository of Unix by buying out its Unix royalty stream from Novell for $82.5m, as reported briefly last week (CI No 2,377) and forecast here two months ago to the day. The pact was said to have been delayed by haggling over terms and price, and even five days before seemed mired down. The deal, according to Sun chief executive Scott McNealy, makes his company for the first time a full-fledged system software company, one of that tiny band that includes Microsoft Corp, IBM Corp and Novell Inc. The voluminous documents and byzantine contracts between Sun and AT&T Co, McNealy quipped, will make a rare bonfire. The buy-out gives Sun unencumbered rights to its Solaris implementation of Unix and will make it easier for SunSoft to assume AT&T’s discarded mantle and relicense Solaris to other vendors. SunSoft, out from under what it considered onerous restrictions dating back to its 1987 agreement with AT&T, can finally become master of its own pricing schedule, president Ed Zander said, adding that he expects that a pricing analysis could take six months, but will result in a scheme that is enticing to potential OEM customers and likely to produce incremental volumes, especially on its product for iAPX-86 processors. Although SunSoft has a non Unix-based object-oriented operating environment called Spring in the works – it should start rolling out this year, the Novell deal still looms large because, Zander computes, based on experience it takes five to seven years to move an installed base on to a new operating system.
As part of the agreement, SunSoft will license Novell’s NetWare client, server-based NetWare for Unix and IPX/SPX protocol. The deal relieves Sun of the burden of paying royalties without so much as receiving a bug fix in return, a situation still endured, Zander said, by Hewlett-Packard Co, IBM Corp, Digital Equipment Corp and Silicon Graphics Inc. At least from Microsoft, he said in backhanded praise of his worst enemy, you get code. In a week replete with irony, it was noted that the Novell-Sun pact, coupled with the pending demise of the Open Software Foundation, put Sun in approximately the same position as it was six or seven years ago when AT&T bought a piece of it and Sun was all puffed up about how it was going to rule the Unix roost. If you look at it that way, McNealy noted, then we bought out the royalty stream with the money AT&T paid us.
Sun sets the agenda for the body that is to succeed the Open Software Foundation this week
Sweet irony. This time around, Hewlett-Packard Co executives can’t take advantage of the naivete of the big business publications and claim sole responsibility for reconstructing the Unix industry in the way it did a year ago with the Common Open Software Environment initiative. Tomorrow, March 23, when the vanishing Open Software Foundation gets up to outline the manner in which it is going to disappear (grin last, no doubt), the script it is reading from will have been written largely by none other than its arch-enemy Sun Microsystems Inc, the company it was born to oppose. In casting about for a way to disassemble the thing, Software Foundation sponsors were persuaded to adopt, as an exit strategy, a plan ostensibly put together last April for NewOrg by SunSoft Inc’s chief technology officer Rob Gingell under the direction of Sun chief executive Scott McNealy. This document, redrafted and now dated March 11 1994, fell into press hands last week along with a copy of the Org’94 proposal that is based on and was handed up to the Foundation board for a vote on February 3 by the Open Software Foundation Committee on Organisation. The Software Foundation board is understood to have given it the go-ahead, and a somewhat modified proposal, it is thought, was circulating among industry executives last week in an attempt to achieve consensus. As a result,
it is believed that Sun Microsystems, the key recruitment target along with its trailing retinue of companies such as Fujitsu Ltd and Novell Inc, will join the new Software Foundation, although it won’t be the Open Software Foundation for long. Although there’s no time before Wednesday morning for it to run a trademark search and see what’s unencumbered, at the first board meeting after the reorganisation, the Software Foundation’s name will be changed. (There’s said to be a list of some 20 possible names). Open Software Foundation sponsors, primarily IBM Corp, Hewlett-Packard and Digital Equipment Corp, will doubtless try to put a happy face on this week’s events but underneath they are now believed to view the Software Foundation as a beast that long ago slipped their leash, having devoured at least $200m, which has bought only Motif plus other bits and bobs of technology. The new organisation, whatever it is called and however the Software Foundation sponsors try to position it, implies that there was something seriously wrong with the old one to begin with. The new organisation is expected to house the Common Open Software Environment and Software Foundation bylaws, which will apparently be rewritten along Sun principles to separate specification from implementation.
Around 40 technical people
The Open Software Foundation head count will be chopped severely, perhaps to around 40 technical people. New management will probably be recruited, and all development halted by December 31 when the new business model kicks in fully. Technology will be developed on an a la carte basis under the new scheme and subcontracted outside. Existing Software Foundation technologies will die off unless companies intervene to sponsor them under the new business model. (Although they talk of meeting prior commitments, even DEC, the only OSFer to buy into the OSF/1 operating system, seems to think that only Motif and perhaps the Distributed Computing Environment are assured an afterlife). Most importantly, Org’94 will facilitate multiple implementations of a single specification. Supposedly new Org’94 members would somehow be insulated against the cost of the Software Foundation’s prior commitments and accrued liabilities – there is still the matter of the Addamax Inc antitrust action to resolve – although it is unclear how they can prevent it from emulating the old Software Foundation even in its reconstituted form.