June 13, 2003

The Trillian Project and SCO's IP claim

- by David Mohring -
So, how did Linux become so capable of scaling beyond the heights of the
old UNIXs? More importantly, who helped put what where?
As with the marketing of cars and TVs, it is the vendor's high end,
leading edge models that sell the standard models, from which most of
the sales and profits are made. For the enterprise server market today,
that high end is multi-headed 64bit SMP (shared memory multiprocessor) systems, never mind the fact that single 32bit processors provide more
than enough power to do most jobs. For all intents and purposes, it is the
ability of the core OS to scale on 64Bit SMP systems that defines
"enterprise scalability". Other enterprise feature are effectively just
addons, which, in the case of Linux, have been freely contributed by
many vendors and developers.

Since version 2.0 Linux has been more than just a 32bit x86 operating
system. With the insistence and assistance of Jon "maddog" Hall, Linux
was already ported to the 64Bit Alpha processor, which delivered great
performance and stability. Just like the traditional AT&T UNIX source
base, the ownership of the Alpha chipset passed though many hands,
suffering the same fate: a thousand cutbacks. Even Alpha's "native"
OS, VMS, has been ported to Itanium by HP/Compaq.

Since 1997 Intel has been promoting the Itanium line as the inevitable
successor for every other server processor on the market. Despite the
early vaporware status, Intel has been very successful, at least in
terms of marketing. With the exception of it's mainframes systems, even
IBM ships Itanium systems that directly compete with their own Power
processors.

For what The SCO Group has to offer with SCO Unixware 7,the Itanium line
is the only 64Bit option. The problem for The SCO Group is that modern
Linux can compete so well in that same market that the value of
Unixware is rapid deteriorating to a historical curiosity. I suspect
that The SCO Group (at that time called Caldera) executives were well
aware of this before they acquired the server part of Old SCO in August
2000, or they would have known, if they spoken to the right executives
and technical staff.

So how did Linux get to scale on Itanium? The SCO Group would have you
believe it was all IBM's doing, which isn't as interesting as the real
story. The web of history weaves to encircle and entangle a much more
diverse group of conspirators, including many of The SCO Group's, Caldera's,
and old SCO's own former executives and other employees.

In October 1998 IBM, Old SCO and Sequent teamed up to collectively develop parts of Unixware and AIX into scalable 64bit-ready
ports for IBM's Power processors and Intel's AI64, or Itanium, under the
banner of Project Monterey. But by then, it was already too late.

In February 1998, well before even the first prototype IA-64 chips were
available, a skunkworks team at HP, with some assistance from Intel,
began to work toward porting Linux to IA-64. By October 1998, around the
same time IBM, Old SCO and Sequent had finished negotiations, HP
had completed the build toolchain. By January 1999, the Linux kernel was
booting on an IA-64 processor simulator, months before the actual
Itanium processor was available. In March 1999, at Intel, Linux was
booting on the actual Intel Itanium processor. In April 1999, CERN
joined the projects for the port of the Gnu C library and VA Linux
Systems joined the project and rapidly improved the stability and
performance.

In May 1999, the Trillian Project foundered and HP, VA Linux and
Intel collectively provided their source patches to the Linux kernel for
the Itanium port under the GPL license.

A bootable kernel alone, however, does not an OS make. HP supplied
the patches for the toolchain (initial GCC C/C++ compiler, gas
Assembler, ld Linker). Intel supplied the test platforms, apache, EFI,
FPSWA, SCSI, SMP, libm (the old Linux C libraries). VA Linux ported E,
E-Term, XFree86, utilities & Term libs, bootloader, libs, and more SMP
patches. CERN ported glibc (the "new" Linux C libraries).

By the time August 1999 rolled around, a surprising array of vendors had come
along and added ports of software to the stone soup. Cygnus added the
GNUPro Toolkit (supported gcc, g++, gdb). SGI added their own compiler,
kdb (kernel debugger) and OpenGL. SuSE added KDE, and created an IA-64
distribution. RedHat added GNOME, more commands and also created an
IA-64 distribution.

It's at this point where things become very interesting. The
Trillian Project, providing free Linux on the IA-64 platform, is
effectively already in direct competition with Project Monterey. This
makes the next three contributors somewhat surprising.

IBM contributed performance tools, measurement and analysis. It should
be noted that these do not add enterprise functionality to the kernel,
they just allow for the tuning of overall performance.

Caldera, yes, the same Caldera that acquired the server part of Old SCO
in August 2000 and renamed itself The SCO Group in 2003, created an
IA-64 distribution.

Lastly TurboLinux, like IBM, added performance counters and also
created a distribution. What.s so special about TurboLinux? In October
1999 Old SCO entered into strategic agreement with TurboLinux to develop
services for TurboLinux's TurboCluster Server and provide Linux
Professional Services for TurboLinux customers. Old SCO also made
sizable investments in TurboLinux, Caldera and LinuxMall. In Old SCO's
words, these investments were supposed to "engage a wider Open Source community and reflects our
continuing support of Open Source and UNIX on Intel.".

In February 2000, the Trillian Press Conference, disclosed all this to
the public:
http://www.ia64linux.org/pressfinal.pdf">http://we b.archive.org/web/20000817011530/http://www.ia64li nux.org/pressfinal.pdf

The development effort was split into two major sections,
the IA-64 Linux Project which concentrated on the Linux Itanium ports
http://www.ia64linux.org/">http://web.archive.org/ web/20000817011530/http://www.ia64linux.org/
and the Linux Scalability Effort, which concentrated on the general
scalable enterprise elements.
http://lse.sourceforge.net/

Why would SCO or even IBM invest in a project and companies in direct
competition to Project Monterey? One obvious conclusion is that both
were hedging their bets against a potential failure of Project Monterey
and Unixware on Itanium. This may explain why even some of SCO's people,
including at least one from the "Core OS Development team," became
directly involved with both the Linux-IA64 and the Linux scalability
project. In fact, both Old SCO and Caldera employees played a major part
in assisting and contributing to the success of both projects.

Developers such as Jun U Nakajima (at that time Email: jun@sco.com,
Phone: 908-790-2352 Fax: 908-790-2426) of SCO's Core OS Development
team, SCO/Murray Hill, NJ, as well as other SCO and
Caldera employees, contributed advice and patches to the Linux kernel,
directly and though the mailing lists of both the Linux-IA64 and the
Linux scalability project.
https://external-lists.vasoftware.com/archives/lin ux-ia64/2000-October/000684.html

Jun U Nakajima was aware of NDA (Non-Disclosure-Agreement) issues, as
this thread on Usenet proves:
http://groups.google.com/groups?threadm=linux.smp. 3A87FA64.88B6CBA5@sco.com

Note that in the same thread, Jun admits that he was using stable 4-way
SMP systems on Linux and had seen a demo 8-way system in the middle of the
year 2000:

Today 2.4.0 SMP kernels run on SMP IA-64 platforms (e.g. 4-way)
reliably. I'm using such systems for heavy-duty software
developement.
We had a demo using an 8-way IA-64 machine last Summer.

Many SCO and Caldera employees directly contributed to the development
of enterprise scale Linux before, during, and after Caldera made its
purchase of SCO's Unix division.

Sometime in 2001 Jun U Nakajima went to work for Intel, and even today
he is successfully performing the same job he did when he was employed
by Old SCO and then Caldera, improving the scalability of Linux on the
new Intel processor platforms.In 2002, Jun U Nakajima and Venkatesh
Pallipadi, also from Intel, presented a paper to a USENIX conference:
http://www.usenix.org/events/wiess02/tech/nakajima .html

As with all the Linux kernel work, the result of all the above has
been incorporated into the main Linux branch at the discretion of Linus
Torvalds.

The SCO Group claims that their current case against IBM is based upon
breach of trade secret though "technological transfer". Well, Old SCO
and the current SCO group are as much to blame for the loss of both secrecy
and the development of the competing Linux technology. The VPs at The
SCO Group should know about the Trillian Project and the contributions
of their own employees. Maybe one of them does:
http://newsvac.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=03/06/ 09/139257

Opinder Bawa, Senior Vice President, Engineering and Global Services at The SCO Group, sold all his stock last week.

As Vice President of Engineering, Opinder Bawa is in a better position
than most to know who put what where.

I am not a lawyer, but even I can see that The SCO Group has put itself
into an intractable situation. Any judge will look at evidence from the
above and laugh The SCO Group out of court. The SCO Group has admitted
that their latest amendment for the deal with Novell does not cover the
old Unix patents, and The SCO group has sold and distributed the Linux
kernel and other sources under the terms of the GPL:
http://radio.weblogs.com/0120124/2003/06/11.html

It is about time to reexamine the recent claims of The SCO group and call
in the lawyers -- and maybe the authorities.

Click Here!