LSB Earns Trust

The free standards group's efforts seek to give Linux more bite and prove to users that Linux can be trusted to handle data and applications.

The free standards group is embarking on an aggressive campaign to recruit ISVs as members.

The FSG, which recently appointed Arthur Tyde—former CEO and co-founder of Linuxcare, now known as Levanta Inc.—as its chief technology officer, provides the LSB (Linux Standards Base) specification.

The group last year released Version 2.0 of the specification with the support of all major Linux distributions, but large-scale ISV support remained the missing link.

But that changed recently when the FSG said it has raised significant ISV support for the LSB, including pledges from software vendors such as Novell Inc., Oracle Corp., IBM, BakBone Software Inc., Levanta, Lymeware Corp., MySQL AB and Veritas Software Corp.

The organization has also added 13 new members, such as Beijing Co-Create Open Source Software Co. Ltd., Covalent Technologies, Fortify Software, Hyperic LLC, Red Flag Software Co. Ltd. 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.

"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," he said.

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

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

The industry is very close to having applications written for Linux run on all 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," Zemlin said.

"But there is no strict deadline or timetable for when all vendors need to be compliant with the LSB."

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 the end of the day the LSB will be a strong standard with a strong ecosystem of vendors," Zemlin said.

The FSGs funding rose more than 40 percent over last year and is expected to rise even more significantly going forward.

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

The large vendors are stepping forward to voice support for the FSG. Scot Handy, vice president for worldwide Linux at IBM, in Somers, N.Y., said that the FSG 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, in Redwood Shores, Calif., said the support of open standards would enable Linux to achieve mass enterprise-class adoption.

And 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," said Hawkins in Waltham, Mass.

Asked about the next release of the specification, LSB 3.0, Zemlin said it 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 efforts to componentize the specification, 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.

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," Zemlin said. "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."

FSG at a glance

The FSG is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the use of free and open-source software.

  • What it does The FSG develops standards and tools for developers and coordinates testing and certification programs.
  • Key workgroup The LSB provides protocols and tests to promote compatibility among Linux distributions.
  • Industry support The group is backed by industry leaders, including Caldera, Conectiva, Debian, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM, Miracle Linux, The Open Group, Oracle, Red Hat, Sun, SuSE and Turbolinux.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.