April 8, 2002

Monta Vista says it is readying the industry's first carrier grade Linux

- by Tina Gasperson -
Monta Vista, an embedded Linux company out of Sunnyvale, California, is announcing the upcoming release of Carrier Grade Edition (CGE) Linux. According to Glenn Seiler, Monta Vista marketing director, CGE, a version of Linux for the telecommunications industry, will ship in late May.
In January, the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) announced a change in its focus. Instead of simply providing hardware for Open Source development and testing, it shifted to providing guidance to Linux kernel development in order to produce a hardened kernel suitable for the rigid requirements of the telecommunications industry. These new, stricter standards are called "carrier grade." The OSDL formed the "Carrier Grade Linux Platform Working Group," which "is not intended to redefine existing architectures, but rather will identify requirements and encourage development of common infrastructure requirements."

"There's a lot of activity aligning around the carrier grade definition," says Seiler. "We've been delivering a high availability product to some key customers for the last year or so, and we're already tracking and planning a third generation release of the product that will track directly with the Open Source Development Lab's specification when it is completed in the fall."

Seiler says that network equipment providers are feeling pressure from customers and competitors to put together product packages quicker and cheaper. In the past, telecom companies would have to create custom-developed solutions. "Over the years, hardware components begain to standardize, but the OSes varied. Now more and more [network equipment providers] are starting to standardize on Linux," he says. "Some vendors are further ahead than others -- some of the U.S. vendors are the farthest behind." However, there is more of a push today for complete off-the-shelf hardware and software packages, and apparently, Linux is a good operating system choice for vendors.

"The benefits are to a large extent, typical, such as lower cost of development. Unlike a solution built on Solaris, with Linux you have source code and you have a community of developers that are constantly enhancing and fixing bugs in the products. That translates into lower costs and faster time to market. Linux is considered to be mature and robust. It is believed that Linux is robust enough to meet end user requirements for carrier class service. Even with all the built-in benefits of Linux, with the carrier grade, you get an even higher price-peformance ratio." Because of these benefits, Monta Vista hopes to find a niche with CGE Linux, on hardware from big companies like IBM, an investor in Monta Vista.

"The industry is aligning around this carrier grade Linux definition," says Seiler. "Companies are going out and talking about their carrier grade initiatives and what they're putting into it. Monta Vista will be the first Linux distribution to have a carrier grade Linux solution." Seiler says Monta Vista is not worried about copy cat products. "Although this is Open Source and anybody can play the 'me too' game, it takes a lot of time and expertise to put together the infrastructure."

Seiler stresses that Monta Vista does not want to reinvent Linux. "Neither the OSDL or Monta Vista has any interest in creating a new kernel or forking or deviating from Open Source practice as it exists today. We're taking a standard Monta Vista kernel and adding to that certain capabilities and features we believe are appropriate and needed for the carrier class products, like reliability, availabity and serviceability. We're doing a lot of things to improve diagnostics.

"We're doing kernel and driver hardening. We're not 100% hardened in the first release, but we do have some efforts in that area. A big part is adding fault management and monitoring, which ties strongly into the middleware and the high availability management. We're providing event logs and resource monitoring APIs."

In case you were looking forward to downloading the source code for this Linux distribution, forget it. "We will not have a free download of this product, at least not initially," says Seiler. "One of the misconceptions about Linux is that you have to give away the source code for free, which is not entirely true. You have to freely provide source code to those customers you provide binaries to. We do intend to charge for this product."

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