March 30, 2005

ISVs keep Linux Standard Base rolling

Author: Jay Lyman

Having solidified backing from the major Linux distribution vendors and, more recently, new ISV (Independent Software Vendor) members who have helped shape it, the Linux Standard Base (LSB) has come of age and is now ready to be pushed in new directions to make it more usable and useful, according to Free Standards Group executive director Jim Zemlin.

Zemlin, who last December indicated there was widespread support for LSB among the major Linux operating system and application vendors, commented on the now-public ISV support from companies such as BakBone Software, IBM, Levanta, Lymeware, MySQL, Novell, Oracle, UGS, and Veritas, as well as new FSG members Beijing Co-Create Software, Covalent, and other ISVs that have pledged support for the standard.

"The ISV support is the nature of what we're trying to do to extend broadly," Zemlin said. "They still look to the standard as a guideline to help make it easier to run applications on the Linux platform. They basically have a set of requirements that will make it easier for them to target the Linux platform."

Zemlin also highlighted the FSG's appointments of Arthur Tyde as CTO, and Amanda McPherson as director of marketing, claiming the newly announced backing and increased staff will hopefully help widen LSB support even more.

"Part of this announcement is the fact that we've brought a management team on board," he said, adding that the bigger list of names now backing LSB may perpetuate itself. "At this point, our organization can only reach so many (vendors). Having these industry leaders take the first dive in will allow us to more easily reach a wider part of the market. And that's exactly what happened. The emails are coming in."

Beyond hype to promote apps

Zemlin, who has headed the nonprofit Free Standards Group since last May, said the timing of the announcement was a reflection of the group and Linux Standard Base "reaching critical mass."

"This isn't a hype machine," he said. "We just kind of announce things when they're meaningful and useful."

Zemlin explained that his first task with the FSG was to get LSB 2.0 published and supported by major Linux distribution vendors -- which now include Red Hat, HP, Novell, IBM, Mandrakesoft, Turbolinux, and hardware companies Dell and Intel. Next, said Zemlin, was delivering results for ISVs in LSB 2.0 -- additional runtime environments, security enhancements such as cryptography and XML, and support for Perl and Python -- to meet the demands of those creating applications for Linux.

With those ISVs now joining and publicly supporting FSG and LSB, Zemlin said the next hurdle is to make LSB as usable and useful as possible. He said the effort will include creating software component testing that may be as simple as a few clicks, tutorials and online Webinars on building LSB-compliant applications, and similar conference events.

"The mantra is make the LSB actionable. Make it easy to use, make it easy to develop applications for, and make it easy to understand how to certify for distribution vendors," he said. "Now that we've reached critical mass, now's the time to make this easy to use for industry, and that's an extremely big challenge for us."

Zemlin said the LSB has grown widespread support from both Linux distro vendors and ISVs because there is mutual resistance to fragmentation and benefit for both kinds of companies in LSB.

"Every Linux distribution vendor or player wants to see more applications on the Linux platform," he said.

Zemlin -- who called the LSB evidence that there can be competitive business based on an open standard -- also said LSB support allowed vendors and application providers to make good on the promise of openness to customers.

"It's a fulfillment of the promise that we will not lock you in. We will not have you beholden to any third party. Open code isn't enough. Open standards allows a choice. It's an important promise every distribution vendor wants to fulfill," he said.

Taking the base to the desktop

Open Source Development Labs Engineering Director Tom Hanrahan called the announced ISV support for LSB a positive development, indicating that the support of companies such as Oracle -- still not an OSDL member but a key figure in applications for Linux -- was important.

Hanrahan -- who manages ODSL's development team, test team and various working groups -- said the organization stays abreast of LSB's progress and points to LSB compliance as one of the basic requirements for its work groups, which focus on Data Center and Carrier Grade Linux.

Looking forward, Hanrahan told NewsForge the biggest thing on the horizon for the LSB is the move to bring desktop support on par with server support.

"The big change for the LSB now is moving from server to desktop," he said. "So they're going to be expanding their standard in that regard. They're expanding the standard so it covers the desktop as well as it covers the server."

Hanrahan, who previously managed 600 open source developers at IBM, said the value of the LSB to ISVs centered on access to processes and tools that increase the ease and likelihood of passing certification tests for the different Linux distributions.

Drawing on all distributions

Lymeware CTO Michael Kobar -- whose applications company has both pledged LSB support and joined the FSG -- said the LSB standard was saving his company from having to pick from among the different Linux distributions.

"Now, we don't have a bunch of platforms that are not supported," he told NewsForge. "We don't have to repackage anything. We don't have to even test it. By getting the LSB 2.0 on our runtime, they've done the testing already. Now, as long as customers stay within what the current LSB 2.0 footprint is, we don't care what distribution they choose."

By signing on as a FSG member, Kobar said Lymeware is hopeful it can be more involved in steering the forward direction of the LSB.

"Having gone through [LSB 2.0], we know where we'd like to go," he said, adding that the company will keep pace with LSB version 3.0, scheduled for release this year, and version 4.0, set for 2006.

"Given that LSB is fanning out, and there will be separate modules, we'd like to make sure a majority of our stuff makes it into the base -- more in LSB 3.0 and hopefully even more in LSB 4.0," he said.


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