Expanded ISV Support Gives Linux More Bite

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-03-20

Expanded ISV Support Gives Linux More Bite

The Free Standards Group, which has just appointed Arthur Tyde—former CEO and co-founder of Linuxcare, now known as Levanta Inc.—as its chief technology officer, is embarking on an aggressive campaign to recruit independent software vendors as members.

The FSG, which provides the Linux Standards Base specification, last year released Version 2.0 of the Linux Standard Base with the full support of all major Linux distributions, but large-scale ISV support remained the missing link.

But the group will announce on Monday that it has raised significant ISV support for the LSB, including pledges from software vendors including Novell Inc., Oracle Corp., IBM, BakBone Software, Levanta Inc., Lymeware, MySQL and Veritas.

It has also added 13 new members, such as Beijing Co-Create Software, Covalent Technologies, Fortify Software, Hyperic, Red Flag and Search Cacher. They will all embrace the LSB as well as contribute to the various working groups developing that technology, FSG Executive Director Jim Zemlin told eWEEK in an interview.

"This broad range of ISV support further proves to end users that they can trust Linux with their data and applications and that we are committed to safeguarding the future of Linux through open standards," Zemlin said.

"We are seeing people starting to get really serious now about the need for more mainstream applications on the Linux platform. While there are already a lot of applications on the Linux platform, there are many more on the server side than on the desktop," he said.

The Linux Standard Base specification contains a base set of APIs, libraries and interoperability standards. It also includes test suites, development environments, sample implementations and developer documentation.

One of key benefits of a standardized Linux platform is that application vendors could easily target the platform and be assured that their applications would run anywhere in the world on any of the different Linux distributions, Zemlin told eWEEK.

"Those ISVs who have joined the FSG are showing how important it is for them to have this kind of a standard. Also, programs like IBMs Chiphopper, of which the LSB is a component, are going out and pledging to bring more applications onto the Linux platform by making it easier for application vendors to develop to, and target, the platform," Zemlin said.

IBM is also working with both Red Hat Inc. and Novells SuSE Linux to get ISVs to consider Linux on Big Blue hardware and middleware.

Click here to read more about IBM promoting Linux to ISVs.

The industry is very close to having applications written for Linux run on all the different Linux distributions without modification. "The fact that all the major Linux distribution vendors in the world have committed to the standard is evidence of this. But there is no strict deadline or timetable for when all vendors need to be compliant with the LSB," Zemlin said.

The fact that there is a big influx of new members into the FSG, along with additional funding and the hiring of a management team including CTO Tyde, who currently sits on the boards of directors of Sputnik Inc. and SpecOps Labs Inc., is a sign that "at end of the day the LSB will be a strong standard with a hugely strong ecosystem of vendors who write to it and ecosystem of application vendors who write to that," Zemlin said.

"Arts experience supporting applications across multiple distributions and building the first Linux certification program makes him uniquely qualified to provide technical leadership to the FSG," he said.

Next Page: FSG funding on the rise.

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The FSGs funding had risen more than 40 percent over last year and is expected to rise even more significantly going forward. "We have some 35 corporate sponsors now as well as a number of member organizations. Our goal is to quintuple the number of application vendors participating in the group," he said.

The FSG wants dozens of new applications on the Linux platform by end of this year, but it is counterproductive to hold Linux distribution vendors to a rigid time frame for supporting the LSB, he said.

But the FSGs efforts to actively recruit ISVs are just beginning. "I believe this is just the tip of iceberg of ISV support for the LSB. While we are actively recruiting software vendors to be part of this effort, and we are aware that this battle will be won over time, it is a multiyear battle," Zemlin said.

The large vendors are also stepping forward to voice their support for the LSB. Scot Handy, vice president for worldwide Linux at IBM, in Somers, N.Y., said that the LSB and IBM share the goal of making it easier for ISVs to target the larger multiplatform Linux opportunity.

Wim Coekaerts, director of Linux kernel engineering at Oracle, said the support of open standards would enable Linux to achieve mass enterprise-class adoption.

Jeff Hawkins, vice president of Novells Linux Business Office, said the company sees multiple advantages of a well-supported binary standard for Linux. "The LSB clearly has the momentum of the industry and is providing a crucial piece of the ongoing success of Linux," he said.

Asked about the next release of the specification, LSB 3.0, Zemlin said this is on track for release later this month and will include cryptography, some key core libraries and a planned C++ update. "This is fairly close to release at this point; we are finalizing bug fixes and preparing the release candidates," he said.

Regarding the move to componentize the specification, first reported by eWEEK in January, Zemlin said this is working well. "We have people contributing across a range of different components and working modularly on the standard so that we can drop in different components over time," he said.

"We want more to be included in the standard so that it will address the needs of, and attract, a broader set of ISVs, and this modular approach will facilitate that and will bring them onboard as active participants," he said.

Turning to the next major release of the LSB specification in about 20 months, Version 4.0, Zemlin said this will be a "massive historic turning point and will see great acceptance from application vendors and users. Hopefully, the LSB will also be a formal ISO standard by then. We are also working with the Chinese government to help with platform certification work as they are adopting the LSB as the core of their emerging Linux standard," he said.

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