Group to Divide Linux Standards Base

Moving away from a single, core LSB, the Free Standards Group has decided to break it down into modules that can be combined to build a server or a desktop standard.

BURLINGAME, Calif.—The Free Standards Group has decided to move away from a single, core LSB (Linux Standards Base) specification, and is instead going to break this down into different modules that can be combined to give a server or desktop LSB standard.

"We decided that rather than add everything to the LSB core, it would be better to break this up into separate parts, the first of which is on the server side. We are thus looking at making the current, ongoing server work a branch of the LSB core," Chris Maresca, a senior partner at Olliance Group, an open-source consulting company that is working with the FSG, told attendees at the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) Enterprise Linux Summit here on Monday.

"As such, there will be different modules, and assembling a set of modules will give you the LSB server standard, while assembling another set of modules will give you the LSB desktop standard going forward," Maresca said.

The idea of different modules would allow a far larger amount of technology to be covered by the standard that is specific to that product group.

"On the server front, there was only so far we could go in the core LSB, and this now gives us the opportunity to get more specific and cover things like asynchronous I/O and all sorts of other things we havent even thought of as yet," he said.

There is even more to be covered for the Linux desktop, which is further down the line. "While there is a lot of pressure for a desktop LSB standard, especially from Asia, there is still a lot of work to be done in this regard and to make this happen," Maresca said. LSB modules have some support among developers. "An application provider can say that their product is certified with LSB 2.x plus LSB WebServer 1.y without having to add a Web server as part of the LSB and thus requiring it to be installed on nonserver computers," Andrew Cattau, a developer in Chicago, said.

Others are not as optimistic. Andrew Morton, the maintainer of the Linux 2.6 kernel, still supports the LSB as a single Linux standard. Asked if he believed the FSG will succeed in its goal of unfettered application portability among distributions, Morton said, "There is no precedent for this as yet."

Another developer said he is comfortable with the move as long as the FSG keeps the core LSB and offers only an optional standard for different market segments such as server, desktop and embedded systems.

"It is important for the average user to have their application run out of the box without any need for tinkering," said the developer, who requested anonymity. "Linux can have a real future if they provide easier install/ uninstall and a robust base set of libraries that closed- and open-source binaries can be built against for distribution to the general public."

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the FSG, in San Francisco, said there is interest in including the Java Runtime Environment in the standard, but the effort would be complicated by licensing issues. The FSG instead is considering putting Java into an optional module and building a template for optional standards that would also allow for other run-time environments.

However successful the module plan is, the FSG still faces the problem of overcoming the perception among users that there are no strong Linux standards, which is creating a barrier to adoption, Zemlin said.

"The ISVs are the key influencers, while the distributions are the key enablers. Any fragmentation of standards is seen as a deathblow," Zemlin said.

The FSG is also looking at possibly franchising the application certification component of the LSB to distribution providers themselves.

Under this proposal, Linux vendors such as Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux division would go through an FSG training process and then be able to offer a similar training program for their ISVs.

While the FSG does provide an application test suite, that offering currently covers less than half of the standard. The goal now is to raise that percentage by incorporating existing solutions into the suite, according to Zemlin.

The next release of the spec, LSB 3.0, is planned for later this quarter and will include cryptography, some key core libraries and a planned C++ update.

In the longer term, an LSB 4.0 release is scheduled for late next year, with LSB Version 5.0 planned for early 2008.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include additional comments from developers.


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