New Standard Reins In Linux Distros

Linux operating systems

The nonprofit open-standards advocacy body has released the Linux Standard Base (LSB) 2.0, a spec that's intended to ensure that disparate distributions of the open-source OS are interoperable. Most important, industrywide adherence to LSB 2.0 will mean that ISVs and developers can take comfort in the fact that their applications will run on a compliant Linux platform.

That would save Linux from the fate that befell Unix two decades ago, as it began to devolve into a battle among competing "flavors," such as HP-UX, IBM's AIX and Sun's Solaris.

"If I, as a developer, have to port my application to two different distributions of Linux, that is one distribution too many," says Jon Hall, executive director of Linux International. "The way of assuring that every distribution has all the applications it needs to be successful is through specifying and applying a cross-distribution, cross-application, neutrally determined standard. The LSB provides that specification. Without this, we are no better than the proprietary Unix systems of old."

Adds Francois Bancilhon, CEO of Mandrakesoft, publisher of the MandrakeLinux operating system: "Given the dire consequences of fragmentation, the standards are a key ingredient to the success of Linux." According to a statement released by the FSG, "the LSB standard ensures Linux will not fork and will continue to be the fastest-growing operating system in the industry. Application vendors will save millions of dollars by basing their applications on a clear set of standards."

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LSB 2.0 has already garnered widespread pledges of support. "We will certify our products to this new LSB standard once it is ratified," says Chris Schlaeger, vice president of research and development for SuSE Linux at Novell.

Also on board are AMD, Conectiva, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Mandrakesoft, Miracle Linux, Red Flag and Turbolinux, among others.

"The release of LSB 2.0 represents another large step forward in the maturation of Linux as an enterprise operating system," says Dan Frye, vice president of IBM's Linux Technology Center. "By pledging to certify to the LSB, we send a clear message to our customers and ISVs that portability and the interoperability of a wide range of software is a top priority."

"This will result in an increase in applications for the Red Hat Enterprise platform and Linux as a whole," adds Karen Bennet, vice president of applications and tools at Red Hat.

The LSB 2.0 package itself is more than just a written spec. It contains a base set of APIs and libraries, as well as test suites and sample implementations. It's also fitted with a new application binary interface for C++. That's important since it could speed the porting of apps written in the popular C++ programming language to Linux. On the hardware from, LSB 2.0 includes support for AMD's new 64-bit Opteron processor.

On a related front, the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), the Beaverton, Ore.-based Linux consortium, is hooking up with the FSG to promote LSB 2.0. "A standard for Linux is an essential component of Linux's continued success in the enterprise," says Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL, which pledges to work with FSG to extend and test the standards in enterprise setting.