The Standards Blog

Linux Foundation Announce New Members, New Standards Release, New Testkit

Open Source/Open Standards
Now that news of the merger of the Free Standards Group and OSDL has settled in, folks are entitled to be curious to see what the Linux Foundation – the name adopted by the new organization – will do. As I was elected last month as an At Large board member, I'll take it as part of my job to let people know what happens as it happens – beginning with this blog entry.   Last week, LF announced three new members of interest, as they illustrate the broadening relevance of Linux to diverse constituencies, as well as to the increasing importance of Linux on mobile devices. Those new members are Marvell, a vendor of storage, communications and consumer silicon solutions; Nokia, the mobile communications giant; and VirtualLogix, a developer of real-time virtualization technology for connected devices.    And tomorrow, LF will issue another press release [Updated:  here it is], this time announcing the latest update of FSG's flagship specification, the Linux Standards Base (LSB), as well as a new testing toolkit. The testkit is the first product of a multi-million dollar development partnership between lf and the Russian Academy of Sciences.  

Taken together, these two press releases illustrate the many dimensions of the "Linux ecosystem," as well as the role that the LF plays in supporting, protecting and empowering it. More familiarly, that ecosystem includes direct participants (individual, for-profit and non-profit); developers (both ISVs as well as Linux developers); and end-users of all types. But it also includes not only platform and application software, but also the standards, test kits, and certification programs that are needed to permit the two to together to create an interoperable environment that is rich with choices, and free from lock-in.

Let's take a closer look at each of these press releases and see how they illustrate my point, starting with the new member announcement. As you'll see, they bear witness to the importance that Linux is expected to play on mobile platforms. According to the LF press release, the specific interests of these three quite different companies in the LF include the following:  
  • Marvell joins The Linux Foundation with a focus on the standardization of mobile and embedded Linux and its adoption on a wide range of devices. 
  • Nokia is recognized for its Linux based Maemo platform, open source mobile web browser and developer portal. It is interested in working with the LF on Linux-based technologies, including its Internet Tablet, in a vendor-neutral environment.
  • VirtualLogix joins LF to contribute its real-time virtualization expertise to help device manufacturers incorporate the rich functionality of Linux into mobile handset and network infrastructure applications, while reducing bill of materials.
  The press release includes the usual corporate quotes. This one is from Nokia's Ari Jaaksi, director, Open Source Software Operation:   It is important that Linux will not be controlled by any single company. The Linux Foundation’s protection mission helps provide that assurance. We also believe the Foundation’s collaboration role will provide us a good venue to work with the industry’s leaders in important areas such as desktop architecture and mobile Linux initiatives.

Now let's look at the second press release, which relates to the new release of the LSB. According to the press release:

The update to LSB 3.1 introduces new automated testing toolkits for distributions and application vendors, linking development more closely to certification. The result will be reduced development costs and tighter integration between upstream developers, distributions, applications and the LSB standard. This continued enhancement of standards, testing and tools for the Linux platform will make it easier and less costly for application developers to support the Linux operating system.
 I'd like to dwell on this release a bit longer, because I think that the significance of the LSB is often underappreciated. Not only is the standard itself essential for enabling the long term freedom of Linux users, protecting them from the type of fragmentation that stranded Unix users on proprietary platforms, but the FSG (and now LF) methodology is remarkable in its own right. That's because the development model used to create it provides a unique way to permit standards – which rely upon things staying uniform – to be created in connection with open source software – which places a premium on allowing developers the freedom to make changes however, and whenever, they wish.    Like the open source development process itself, LF pulls this off by creating a collaborative, real-time community interaction. You can read more about it in an interview I conducted in May of last year with Jim Zemlin, the FSG's (and now LF's) Executive Director, called The Free Standards Group: Squaring the OpenSource/Open Standards Circle. The importance of the LSB to the future of Linux is recognized by the developers of every major Linux distro, all of which already comply with the last version of the LSB. The following quote, taken from tomorrow's press release, is from Red Hat's VP of Engineering Services and Operation, Paul Gampe (Red Hat was a member of FSG, and is now a member of LF), and Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth, respectively:
Gampe: We are supporting The Linux Foundation’s efforts and ISVs by registering Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 to the LSB 3.1. Red Hat is a firm supporter of open standards. The LSB helps make it easier for distribution vendors to build their business.

Shuttleworth: The LSB provides a common ground across distributions for ISV compatibility. We are proud to certify to the LSB and to use their enhanced testing tool kit in our testing efforts. The harmonisation efforts of the LSB leave enough room for innovation and differentiation while ensuring that ISV's can target Ubuntu at low cost if they already work on other LSB-certified platforms.

Without meaning to make this simply a blog entry of press release quotes, I do want to include a few more paragraphs that describe how the LSB standard and related tools in general, and the new release in particular, enable open source and open standards to play nicely with each other: 
Even though Linux is developed in a highly decentralized manner, in order to be attractive to the ISV community, Linux must provide the same long-term compatibility guarantees and comprehensive compatibility testing as proprietary platforms such as Microsoft Windows. The LSB Test Framework enables cross-distribution interoperability for applications targeted at LSB 3.0 and higher and will provide backward compatibility so that these applications will continue to run correctly on distributions compatible with future versions of the LSB.   …The Linux Foundation initiated a multi-million dollar project to build the first open source testing framework that will link upstream projects and their code to the LSB and downstream providers. The first result of that testing partnership is available now: the LSB Distribution Teskit (LSB DTK). The LSB DTK introduces a web-based front end testing process that represents the first results of The Linux Foundation’s partnership with the Russian Academy of Sciences….   The LSB delivers interoperability between applications and the Linux operating system, allowing application developers to target multiple version of Linux with only one software package. This allows Linux to compete effectively against proprietary, monolithic platforms. The LSB has marshaled the various Linux distribution vendors to certify to its standards, including Red Hat, Novell’s SUSE Linux, Debian, Ubuntu, Xandros, Mandriva and more. Details can be found at
If you're interested in seeing the new release firsthand, the Linux Standard Base 3.1 is available today on the Linux Foundation’s web site here . And you can find the new testing kits here.

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Thanks for the kind words.  Besides being an at large voice, I hope to be able to complement the expertise of the other Board members.  Not surprisingly, their domain expertise is primarily business and "code oriented," if you will, while I have legal expertise in the technology, IP, OSS, and standards areas. 

  -  Andy