Carrier-Grade Linux in Works

A group of hardware and software vendors will announce late Wednesday morning here at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo that they are working together to develop a new version of the Linux operating system that is optimized for the telecommunications ind

NEW YORK -- A group of hardware and software vendors will announce late Wednesday morning here at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo that they are working together to develop a new version of the Linux operating system that is optimized for the telecommunications industry.

A working group for the carrier-grade version of the open-source operating system was established this month and currently includes Alcatel, Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp., MontaVista Software, Nokia, Red Hat and SuSE.

The working group is a forum designed to guide carrier-grade Linux development and encourage the development of commercial open-standard components on top of Linux to implement the required platform functionality.

The vision for this version is that it will allow the "next generation and multimedia communication services to be delivered using Linux-based open-standard platforms for carrier-grade infrastructure equipment," Hannu Vainio-Mattila, senior network manager of network systems for Nokia, told eWEEK in an interview ahead of the announcement.

The Open Source Development Lab, an independent, nonprofit lab initially designed for developers adding enterprise capabilities to the Linux operating system and that opened its doors last January, will be providing the forum to guide the development and adoption of Linux in both the carrier-grade and data center market segments.

The OSDL is also in the process of implementing a comprehensive patch testing and delivery system for the Linux kernel. "The Lab has moved beyond its initial focus on hardware support for enterprise Linux projects so as to better position Linux for carrier-grade and data center usage.

"The Carrier Grade working group is already in place, and we are now also calling for parties interested in joining the Data Center working group," OSDL Lab Director Tim Witham told eWEEK in a briefing.

The OSDL will appoint a road map coordinator for the carrier-grade work, who would oversee the architecture, requirements, validation and other sub-working groups. Members of these groups would not have to be Lab members, Witham said.

The road map coordinator would, in turn, report to the Carrier Grade advisory committee, whose members will ultimately approve all projects and have to be Lab members. One "at large" member will be appointed to the advisory committee for each nine regular members, he said.

"We are simply going to act as the channel that funnels all the projects and technologies from the various working groups. Many projects that will form part of this carrier-grade Linux operating system are already under way in the open-source community; some that have been shelved will be resurrected and new ones started.

"Any new technology the Lab develops will use the GNU General Public License, while the other projects will be licensed as agreed when they were begun," Witham said.

Asked why a carrier-grade version of Linux is necessary, Nokias Vainio-Mattila said there are many reasons, including the need for more bandwidth and new architectures as networks converge for multimedia communication services.

"Open-standards-based commercial off-the-shelf software components are also needed to improve the time to market of new services. An open-standards approach reduces development cost and product risk for the new architecture. Linux is also the fastest-growing general-purpose server operating system," he said.

But he cautioned that this could result in the fragmentation of the Linux kernel, which have to be avoided for both the communications and data center market segments going forward.

The working group process will facilitate the improved planning of product features that depended on carrier grade Linux through a commonly agreed road map and functionality and will drive critical mass for the ecosystem, "making it possible for platforms and components that are compatible with carrier-grade Linux to be used in innovative products," Vainio-Mattila said.

The working group plans to have a draft of the requirement specifications in place by March, with the architecture and road map for each component of the Linux platform expected in May. Proposals for new open source software projects are hoped to be ready by August, along with the publication of Version 1.0 of the specifications. "This means that the first compliant products could be available from ISVs by December," Vainio-Mattila said.

The working group will further strive to achieve consistency across the Linux distributions, support the Linux Standards Base and work with the various carriers to incorporate carrier-grade Linux functionality into their products, he said.

Work on the Linux operating system with carrier-grade enhancements will concentrate on areas like standard interfaces, high-availability interfaces, service interfaces, hardened device drivers, hardware configuration and management interfaces, co-processor interfaces, and software development tools.

Earlier this week HP. announced the availability of two new carrier-grade servers, the CGS 2300 and 3300. They will initially support Red Hat 7.1 and later this year will support Debian Linux, SuSE Linux and Windows, officials said.

The news of these servers follows IBMs announcement at LinuxWorld in San Francisco last August of two new xSeries servers, the x300 DC Power server and x330 DC Power server. These two thin 1U servers are specifically targeted toward the high-end telecommunications industry and include new features like easier cabling and self-management.

The OSDLs Witham said the Data Center working group will hopefully be assembled in a few months and will be broken down into three subgroups: scalability, clustering and other technology working groups. The structure will be the same as that of the Carrier Grade working group, he concluded.