The Standards Blog

Joining Forces: OSDL and the Free Standards Group will become The Linux Foundation

Open Source/Open Standards
I'm pleased to share some news that I expect you'll be reading about in lots of other places today: Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG) signed an agreement yesterday providing for the two groups to combine forces to form a new organization – The Linux Foundation.  The result of this consolidation will be to dedicate the resources of the combined membership to "accelerate the growth of Linux by providing a comprehensive set of services to compete effectively with closed platforms."  You can read the press release here, as well a detailed article by Steve Lohr of the New York Times here (the article will appear in Monday's print edition of the NYT). 

Jim Zemlin, currently the Executive Director of FSG, will lead the new organization, which will include as members every major company in the Linux industry, including Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, Novell, Oracle and Red Hat, as well as many community groups, universities and industry end users. The necessary member votes are currently being taken by OSDL and FSG, and the transaction is expected to be finalized on or about February 2, 2007.  (Disclosure: I am a director of, and my firm is legal counsel to, FSG.)

For those of you that are not familiar with one or both of these organizations, over the last six years each has provided major support for the continuing advancement of Linux.  Now those efforts will be funded and coordinated as part of a single business plan that will enable the entire Linux ecosystem to work together to provide a breadth and depth of essential services that no single community member, entity or company could realistically bring to bear alone.  This shared resources strategy (like an open source project plan) will permit members to collaborate on platform development and further accelerate the growth of a vibrant Linux market that will benefit everyone: end users, the community, developers and industry.  

The strategic importance of the new organization is explained well in the Times article, which reads in part as follows:

[T]he mission of the new organization is [to] help Linux, the leading example of the open-source model of software development, to compete more effectively against Microsoft, the world’s largest software company.

“It’s really a two-horse race now, with computing dominated by two operating-system platforms, Linux and Windows,” said James Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. “There are things that Microsoft does well in terms of promoting Windows, providing legal protection and standardizing Windows.”

He added that “the things that Microsoft does well are things we need to do well — to promote, protect and standardize Linux.”

The activities of the new organization will include the following: 

  • Protecting Linux by sponsoring key Linux developers and providing legal services:  These former OSDL activities include economically supporting Linux Torvalds and other key kernel developers so that they may remain independent and able to dedicate their full time to improving Linux. The Linux Foundation will also manage the Linux trademark, and offer legal intellectual property protection to developers through such initiatives as the Open Source as Prior Art project, the Patent Commons, and sponsorship of the Linux Legal Defense Fund.
  • Standardizing Linux and improving it as a platform for software development: This has been the principal mission of FSG since its inception, and The Linux Foundation will continue to offer application developers the kinds of standardization services and support that make Linux attractive as a target for their development efforts. These resources include the Linux Standard Base (LSB) and the Linux Developer Network.  Today, all major Linux distributions comply with the LSB.
  • Providing a neutral forum for Collaboration and Promotion:  The Linux Foundation, while it will not build Linux, will act as a neutral spokesperson to advance the interests of Linux and "respond with authority" to disinformation and other attacks.  It will also foster innovation by hosting collaboration events among all stakeholders to solve pressing issues facing the Linux ecosystem in areas such as desktop interfaces, accessibility, printing, and application packaging, among many others. 

The Linux Foundation will have three offices:  in San Francisco, California; Beaverton, Oregon; and Tokyo Japan, with additional staff located in Indiana and Moscow. 

These are exciting times for open source in general, and for Linux in particular.  I'm confident that The Linux Foundation will play an important role in helping both OSS as well as Linux continue to achieve their manifest destiny.  I'm looking forward to being involved in that process as part of an even bigger and more influential organization.

All this should have little impact on the day by day process of actually maintaining the Linux kernel itself - which is as it should be.  In an email to Steve Lohr at the Times, Linux Torvalds wrote: “I work on the technology itself, not any of the other issues.  I literally just sit in my basement and do technical management. Nothing else.”

If you'd like to learn more – or better yet, become a member - you can visit the new Website: www.linux-foundation.org.  I've also pasted in the initial FAQ below.

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Initial Articles on the Merger:

Stever Lohr - The New York Times:  Group Formed to Support Linux as Rival to Windows

Steven Vaughn-Nichols - LinuxDevices.com:  Top Linux Foundations to merge

China Martens - IDG News Service:  OSDL, Free Standards Group to Merge

Charles Babcock - InformationWeek: Linux Foundation Formed With Backing From HP, IBM, Intel

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Linux Foundation?
The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux. Founded in 2007 by the merger of the Open Source Development Labs  (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG), it sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and is supported by leading Linux and open source companies and developers from around the world. The Linux Foundation promotes, protects and standardizes Linux by providing unified resources and services needed for open source to successfully compete with closed platforms.

Who are members of the Linux Foundation?
The founding platinum members of the Linux Foundation are Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, Novell, and Oracle. Other members of the new organization include every major company in the Linux industry, including Red Hat, as well as numerous community groups, universities and industry end users.
The founding platinum members of the Linux Foundation are Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, Novell, and Oracle. Other members of the new organization include every major company in the Linux industry, including Red Hat, as well as numerous community groups, universities and industry end users.The founding platinum members of the Linux Foundation are Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, Novell, and Oracle. Other members of the new organization include every major company in the Linux industry, including Red Hat, as well as numerous community groups, universities and industry end users.

Where will The Linux Foundation be located?
The Linux Foundation has offices in Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, California, and Tokyo, Japan, with additional staff in Indiana and Moscow.

Why was The Linux Foundation formed?
Linux has experienced tremendous growth since OSDL and the FSG were each formed more than six years ago. Today, Linux has captured significant marketshare across many different industries and has reached a level of maturity that requires a focused and comprehensive set of resources as it enters the next phase of explosive growth.

The Linux Foundation will marshal the resources of the Linux ecosystem to provide much needed services that are not easily offered by a single community member, entity or company.  It will use a shared resources strategy – much as open source developers do – to collaborate on platform development while enhancing the Linux market for everyone: end users, the community, developers and industry.

Does Linus Torvalds work for The Linux Foundation?
The Linux Foundation sponsors Linus Torvalds so he can remain independent while working fulltime on the Linux kernel. 

Who leads the Linux Foundation?
Jim Zemlin is the executive director and was chosen to lead the Linux Foundation due to his deep Linux and open source software experience and industry relationships. He has led the Free Standards Group for three years with previous experience as vice president of marketing at Covalent Technologies and a co-founder of Corio.

The management team includes:

  • Jim Zemlin, executive director
  • Dan Kohn, chief operating officer
  • Diane Peters, general counsel
  • Ian Murdock, chief technology officer
  • Tom Hanrahan, director of engineering
  • Amanda McPherson, director of marketing
  • Takashi Kunai, director of Japan

How do I become a member of the Linux Foundation?
Please visit www.linux-foundation.org.   

 

Where can I find previous OSDL project documentation?
Archives of all OSDL projects can be found at old.linux-foundation.org.

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux. Founded in 2007 by the merger of the Open Source Development Labs(OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG), it sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and is supported by leading Linux and open source companies and developers from around the world. The Linux Foundation promotes, protects and standardizes Linux by providing unified resources and services needed for open source to successfully compete with closed platforms.

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