The Free Standards Group has decided to break up the single, core Linux Standards Base specification into different modules that can be combined to create a server or desktop LSB standard, but what do the companies behind Linux and the analysts make of this move?
Is it, as one writer on Slashdot has it, a case of "the old observation that standards are wonderful because there are so many of them"? With a future of an "optional Red Hat module and the optional SUSE module and…"
Or will a revised LSB help keep Linux from suffering from the fragmentation that perpetually bedeviled Unix?
Dan Kusnetzky, IDCs program vice president for system software, said that he thinks that the changes are a good move.
After all, "The requirements for embedded operating environments are quite different from those for server operating environments," he said.
"Server operating environments also have different requirements if theyre supporting a small-scale workload than if theyre expected to manage a large scaled up hardware configuration. So, it seems wise to create flexible standards that recognize that different usage patterns also bring along with them different requirements."
Besides having server and desktop components, the LSB is also the foundation of embedded Linux standards such as the OSDLs (Open Source Development Lab) Carrier Grade Linux specification, and the Embedded Linux Consortiums Platform Specification.
Stacey Quandt, senior business analyst for the Robert Frances Group, going to the heart of the matter, said, "The ongoing challenge for ISVs [Independent Software Vendors] is the cost of supporting and certifying multiple Linux distributions."
Its those costs that constantly hampered Unix ISVs, as they had to make multiple versions of the same program for Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, UnixWare and so on. The LSB is meant to make sure that that kind of software compatibility fragmentation doesnt happen to Linux.
"The ability to create modules for the Linux Standards Base has the potential of lowering the costs to ISVs and will increase the number of ISVs that certify applications," Quandt said.
"Also, since the FSG [Free Standards Group] is also considering franchising out the application certification component of the LSB to the distribution providers, this would lead to an even closer relationship between ISVs and Linux distribution providers," Quandt added.
What analysts think is all well and good, but what really counts is whether Linux distributors and ISVs support the new standards.
In the past, a standard which was in part an attempt to unify Linux around the LSB, UnitedLinux, fell apart when founding member, The SCO Group Inc., turned against Linux. More recently, Brazils Conectiva SA, Frances Mandrakesoft SA, Japans Turbolinux Inc. and the United States Progeny Linux Systems Inc. joined forces in the LLC (Linux Core Consortium), which is based on creating LSB 2.0–compliant Linux distributions.
While the LCC has the support of other Linux vendors, such as major Linux distributors Novell Inc. and Red Hat Inc., no other companies have joined it at this time. Still, both Linux giants are supporting this next step in the evolution of the LSB.
"Novell continues to be an active member of the LSB Work Group because we see the importance of providing customers and industry vendors with standardized Linux technology. The availability of common standards simplifies the certification efforts of ISVs and IHVs [Independent Hardware Vendors], which makes a platform that embraces these standards more attractive to develop on," said Markus Rex, general manager of SuSE Linux at Novell.
"The efforts of the Free Standards Group are very important and, specifically, the LSB work is key to increasing the adoption of Linux operating systems and applications in both the server and the client workstation areas. Novell is pleased to support these initiatives by working towards getting all their Linux products LSB-compliant," Rex said.
"Currently we have focused our certification efforts on SUSE LINUX, and will endeavor to get all our Linux products certified when possible—and any FSG initiative to make this process easier and more efficient without exponentially increasing the cost is welcome," Rex said.
Karen Bennet, vice president of tools development at Red Hat, took a similar line: "Open Standards are a key enabler for wider adoption of Linux. Red Hat is currently certifying our RHEL4 [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] product to the LSB standards, and will continue to work with Free Standards Group to get the next version of the Standards [LSB 3.0] specification defined and certified for RHEL4 as well."
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