October 14, 2004

Company's open source dedication questioned

Author: Jay Lyman

Last week, a NewsForge article about Dallas-based OSI Hosting discussed the company's goal of being a Web hosting provider dedicated to open source. However, it appears OSI may be guilty of the same indirect SCO support its founder criticized in that article, since OSI's own servers are currently being hosted through EV1, which paid for a Linux license from SCO.

OSI Hosting founder and CEO Jason Macer conceded that "in a way, yes," the company was being hypocritical in billing itself as dedicated to open source while it was using Linux boxes licensed through SCO. However, "we won't be there for long. I used EV1 to start with to host all of my sites, and my servers still run the OSI site because the downtime of 72 hours for our site would be devastating," Macer said in an email response. "Within the next month we anticipate moving it when use has slowed down."

OSI, which last week began offering dedicated hosting services, has been making announcements regarding its open source orientation since early September. OSI is also featured as a Novell success story that indicates the company was founded in February 2004.

Novell spokesperson Bruce Lowry said OSI Hosting is "a current customer in good standing," and confirmed a deal for 12,000 SUSE Linux Enterprise Edition licenses referenced in a recent Novell conference call.

IBM, from which OSI said it is acquiring 25,000 rack-mount servers near the end of the year, could not immediately confirm its dealings with OSI, which boasted in a press release last month of "building a showroom data center facility stocked with 200,000 IBM Blade Servers running SUSE Linux."

Apple, which OSI said is working with the hosting company to deploy 1,000 Xserves running Mac OS X, did not respond to a request to confirm a relationship with OSI.

Despite the confirmation of the Novell license deal, OSI's ongoing relationship with EV1 -- whose president Robert Marsh has expressed regret over the SCO Linux license -- causes many to question the veracity of OSI's open source and business claims, as evidenced by comments in forums and email response.

When asked about number of paying customers and number of servers for OSI Hosting, Macer said the company has 8,428 customers using a total of 12,175 servers on its dedicated hosting side and 380 customers of its collocation hosting. Adding that an additional 485,000 square feet of facility space is scheduled to open in December, Macer also indicated that OSI Hosting had been assembled and rolled out rapidly.

"Because OSI has been pulled together so quickly, and yes haphazardly, we were not able to get everything done on time," said Macer, who claims OSI is not reselling EV1, but is simply running its OSI Hosting sites on three servers with EV1, which again declined to comment.

SCO spokesperson Blake Stowell said EV1 purchased a perpetual license last March that covers all of the Houston-based company's Linux servers for life. "They agreed to a one-lump-sum payment and the Linux servers they had were protected in perpetuity," Stowell said.

To avoid the SCO license, OSI could use Windows boxes through EV1, but that would contrast with Macer's contention that people want something other than Microsoft and OSI is the answer. As of this week, the OSI Hosting sites were being hosted on Apache Web servers at EV1.

One reader, among those unhappy with this reporter's error in not presenting the EV1 connection in the first place, indicated that he thought OSI's actions were actually worse than SCO's intellectual property claims on Linux.

"Misappropriating the hard-won reputation and good will of the open source community is more offensive than SCO's baseless accusations and vicious mischaracterizations," said Robert Taylor, a Web applications developer, in an email.

It was sentiment and psychological factors that Macer claimed to be leveraging with Linux and an all open source dedicated hosting solution, but those same forces may now be among OSI Hosting's biggest hurdles.

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