April 5, 2006

Free Standards Group shakes up LSB roadmap

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

In September of last year, the Free Standards Group (FSG) announced a roadmap that had Linux Standard Base (LSB) 4.0 coming out in early 2007, with an 18-month development cycle for each release. Now the 4.0 release is being pushed back until 2008 or 2009, with a 3.2 release planned for early 2007 in place of 4.0.

According to Ian Murdock, who joined the FSG recently as CTO and chair of the LSB workgroup, LSB 3.1 should be released towards the end of April or the beginning of May. The LSB 3.1 core was released back in October 2005, but the complete 3.1 release is still being worked on.

Murdock says the group would like to have the LSB versions align with major releases of distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), and others so that the LSB 3.x series would track with RHEL 5 and SLES 10, LSB 4.x would track with RHEL 6 and SLES 11, and so forth.

Murdock also said that the LSB will be more modular, so that vendors can choose the parts of LSB that they're interested in working with and supporting. For example, Murdock says that the desktop portion of the specifications would be an add-on module rather than part of the core specification.

The desktop specification in LSB 3.2 should include GTK, Qt, work now being done in the Portland project that spawned from the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) Desktop Architects meeting in December, and other specifications coming from the freedesktop.org project.

Murdock noted that the goal is that applications should run as well in KDE and GNOME as they do on different distributions.

Binary compatibility

The FSG is now aiming for backward binary compatibility between releases, so that binaries that are certified for LSB 3.1 or 3.2 should also run on LSB 4.0 when it's released. In the past the FSG did not guarantee binary compatibility. However, binary compatibility is a concern for ISVs and organizations deploying Linux, and Murdock noted that it's likely that a binary compiled on a Solaris system 10 years ago would run on a current version of Solaris today -- something that provides a level of stability that ISVs and businesses want with Linux.

Murdock says that the problem of how to achieve binary compatibility is not solved yet, but that the group will be finding a way to accomplish this so that vendors do not need to worry about it going forward.

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