Xinuos, which purchased SCO's UNIX server products, is now releasing an entirely new version of the OS, hoping that leveraging market conditions and fond memories of the legacy SCO product will lead non-legacy customers and partners to look past damage to the brand done by SCO’s management in its later years.
Xinuos, a company that was created explicitly to buy and update the assets of SCO, has brought an updated version of the classic SCO OpenServer to market. It has also launched a partner program to try and build a new channel to sell OpenServer 10.
Xinuos started out life as UnXis, and purchased the assets of the then-bankrupt SCO in 2011. It changed its name to Xinuos in 2013, and is just now bringing the revamped OpenServer offering to market.
“Since we acquired the assets, we continued to support the legacy operating systems, OpenServer 5 and UnixWare 7,” said Sean Snyder, Xinuos’ president and CEO. “Given that SCO had neglected the operating systems while spending money on lawsuits, we decided in 2013, when we looked at the cost of updating, that it made more sense to adopt a modern and existing OS and transition to that.”
SCO is remembered today primarily as the patent troll they became, relentlessly suing IBM and Novell over claims to the ownership of Linux. They still exist – under another name – and pop up from time to time to reassert rights which the courts to date have not recognized. However, in their heyday, around the beginning of the century, the SCO UNIX operating system had a massive install base. In addition, they had a huge channel of over 10,000 partners, despite not being an especially channel-friendly company. However, while the name SCO became toxic in the industry, Snyder emphasized that the products themselves did not draw animosity, which is what attracted Xinuos to them in the first place.
“The negativity directed as SCO was directed at management not at the products themselves,” Snyder said. “It’s an overstatement to say the products were beloved, but not by much.”
“While much of the install base has moved on to other systems, there are still many who have stuck with it and who have been very slow to move to the next version,” said Kerri Wallach, Xinuos’ Sales Manager. “Some have been running the same version for 20 years but now have to move because of hardware issues.”
OpenServer10, which was announced last year and is now available, was designed to address these issues.
“It’s a Free BSD version of UNIX, and we have added a GUI and other bells and whistles,” Snyder said. It has a modern 64-bit operating system, and is available as a free download with browser-based installation. Technical support and applications development are available from Xinuos and its partners. Paid support allows access to the Xinuos Secured Application collection.
“SCO used to be mainly a product-driven company and with OS 10, the license is free and our emphasis is services and maintenance and professional services, which is a major change from what SCO had done in the past,” Wallach said.
For customers who have original source code and can port to OS 10, the upgrade process is simple.
“For those who can’t port the source code, we have an interim solution,” Snyder said. “They can run their legacy application on top of our OS, which gives them their modern platform. There are still some limitations like the old 32-bit system, but it’s a big boost.”
Snyder acknowledged their initial market is that install base, but said that Xinuos believes market conditions will allow them to expand rapidly beyond that.
“The install base is now 300,000 servers, and that’s the low-hanging fruit with a desperate need for a modern up-to date OS,” he said. “That’s the initial target. But we expect that in the next 36 months this will be less than 10 per cent of our business. Our OS will compete with anything out there, but the real differentiator is on the end-of-support and maintenance that others implement. That’s where we have a real opportunity.”
A key obstacle to this ambitious plan, as Snyder acknowledged, is the unsavory SCO legacy.
“It’s less of an issue than one might think though,” he said. “We are not SCO. We are investors who bought the products. We did not buy the ability to pursue litigation against IBM, and we have absolutely no interest in that. Linux is now the big boy in the market, and the low cost UNIX servers compete with Linux. OpenServer 10 will run Linux out of the box and has Linux binary compatibility. Today, it’s all about the service and support level. Is dissatisfaction with that today enough to make Linux users shift to another OS? In most cases, no, it’s too much work. But we think there is about 10-20 per cent of the Linux market who would do it.”
The Windows market, Snyder said, will be a harder sell.
“Windows is gravy for us,” he said. “It’s not what we are initially going after.”
Another thing they are going after is partners. They have about 75 today, a far cry from the 10,000 plus of SCO’s peak. While that’s never coming back in today’s world of leaner, meaner channels, Xinuos is looking to increase their channel size, and has also announced a new channel program to provide more support. They are seeking to recruit a broad array of VARs, ISVs, system integrators, consultants and OEMs. They are also promising a more channel-centric go-to-market model than SCO had in the past.
“We have a hybrid model, but unlike before with SCO, where it was about a 50-50 direct/channel balance, we are much more heavily focused on selling through partners,” Snyder said. They want to see about 95 per cent of the business go through channel partners, building up to a couple hundred partners over the next couple of years and then going from there, establishing a stable core of go-to partners.
“The intention is to feed leads back to partners,” he said. “We see our best chance of succeeding as being through partnership with the channel, not in competition with it. That’s an important shift from SCOs previous strategy.”
The rollout schedule for OpenServer 10 involves focusing on North America in 2016, to make sure all the kinks are out and the customer experience is where it should be. English speaking areas outside North America like the UK, Australia and South Africa are also likely to get it early. Europe should see OS10 in 2017, and the rest of the world beyond that.