Branding Linux to Unix 98
In 1995, I started work with Lasermoon (formerly a UK Company) and
others, to put Linux through the process of certification under the
NIST POSIX standard. The decision to push for a formal standards
certification came out of user demand and was re-enforced by my own
work with UNIX. It was a no-brainer!
So began a journey which was long, arduous, educational and eventually
successful. Linux received NIST POSIX PCTS:151-2 Certification on 8th
March 1996. I have the certificate on my office wall.
Based on my knowledge and experience, what would it take to get Unix98
branding for Linux? The UNIX name is licenced from The Open Group (TOG),
formed from a merging of the OSF and X/Open, now with heavy emphasis on
delivering solutions to Users and Buyers. Linux can be called UNIX
after first passing the UNIX98 tests, Branding and purchasing the
licence to use the UNIX name.
Here's how it would work. We'll use Redhat 5.1 (RH51) as the Linux
reference and ACME Linux as a pseudo organization willing to invest
the time and money to get Unix98 branding for Linux.
ACME Linux Inc wishes to sell a version of Red Hat Linux 5.1 to
organizations which require Unix98 branding as a mandatory part of the
Please note item number 7. It is a nebulous little criterium to
pass. Even though we have invested a huge amount of time and money
into the project, everything could fail right at the end. Everybody
will sound supportive, encouraging and enthusiastic - anything that
promotes UNIX is a Good Thing so they are hardly going to do
- First we purchase the test suite licences from the Open Group
on long-term rent or buyout.
- Next we freeze RH51 and start testing the shells. Everything fails, or at
least it used to (we should know).
- So we fix the shells, ps and other commands required to enable the other
tests to run (in 1996 this took about 2-plus months of full time work for
approximately two people).
- Next we run the tests and change whatever is required in the source code to
pass the tests. We fix the compiler and libraries. We run the
tests again, and fix problems on a case-by-case basis. This will
take an unknown duration. During this time, the Linux
sources for RH51 have to be changed to pass the tests (not the tests to
- We must also prepare test documentation, product documentation and support
documentation in accordance with the Branding guidelines. This can
be done as a parallel operation, but it is very tedious and will
add another 6 weeks to the end of the project.
- We submit our test results and documentation. In theory the tests
can be run in TOG's office, TOG will be aware of the situation, and
the Brand Certificate can be granted the same day.
- However, before we continue, we must submit organisational
information such that the UNIX Brand Sponsors (that is the UNIX
Vendors and others who have already invested heavily
in The Brand) will have reassurance that the product from the
Branding organisation (in this case, ACME Linux, branding Red Hat 5.1)
will not bring the UNIX Brand into disrepute, will provide UNIX
customers with ongoing aftersales support and backup, and in all ways
meet the expectations of The Brand.
- We now have the right to call our code "ACME Linux RH51" and pay
a licence fee to TOG each time the product is sold under the UNIX
name. Any changes to the RH51 tree would have to be re-tested and
re-Branded. ONLY ACME can use the UNIX Brand Name and only with the RH51
binaries that ACME Branded. In simple terms, Red Hat Inc. would
have to brand separately from ACME.
That is one possibility. Last year, the US Coastguard won a legal battle
giving NT the right to bid for contract that previously were only open to
UNIX Branded products. The results have been reported in several forums:
and show a rapid migration away from UNIX to NT. Faced with the HUGHS AirForce
contract, 37,000 Workstations worth over $1 Billion going to NT,
the Unix Sponsors may want to strengthen the value of the Unix brand by
However, if Linux is branded, then within a matter of days, Linux
products "Built from the Branded Sources" will become available on CD
for $1.95. From the covers of magazines to inserts in Books, "Built
From the Branded Sources" Linux will become endemic. Do you think that
the UNIX Vendors (and TOG Sponsors) would be enthused about replacing their
market worth multiple Billions with
a $1.95 Linux CD ? Could a UNIX Sponsor argue that this brings the UNIX
name into "disrepute"? Yes, they could and their legal departments can as
well. They could even
file suit against The Open Group, tying up the process in litigation
for unknown periods.
That leaves us with many questions and no definite answers. Should
Linux go for Unix98 branding? Are the problems with the Unix98
branding process potential problems for the emerging Linux standard as
well? We think they are and next week, we'll explain why in more
detail, as well as give some concrete suggestions on how some of these
problems can be avoided.
Re-use code; not other peoples mistakes!
Ian Nandhra Phone : 209 956 3047
NC Laboratories Inc. FAX : 209 956 1747
Suite G161, 4719 Quail Lakes Drive email : email@example.com
Stockton, CA 95207, USA. http//www.nc-labs.com