Linux Companies Pick Up Steam

SAN MATEO (05/12/2000) - In a move some believe will help ensure unity among Linux developers, two Linux standards bodies have joined to piece together an application development guideline.

The new organization, the Free Standards Group (FSG), brings together the Linux Standard Base project and the Linux Internationalization Initiative. The group will operate as a nonprofit company, positioned to attract outside capital.

The FSG has gained the endorsements of many key players in the Linux development world, including those of the major operating systems makers such as Red Hat Inc., Caldera Systems Inc., SuSE Linux AG, Corel Corp., and TurboLinux Inc. IBM Corp., which has made one of the heaviest investments in Linux software development, is also giving the group a thumbs-up.

Dan Quinlan, an engineer at Transmeta, in Santa Clara, California, spearheaded the Standard Base project and will lead the new group. According to Quinlan, the FSG's primary focus for the short term is to nail down Version 1.0 of the Linux Standard Base, which will serve as the Linux development community's development guide.

Applications complying with the standard reportedly will be able to work with any version of Linux without needing to be recompiled.

The first draft of the specification is expected to be available sometime next month, with the final version due by the end of this year.

The upcoming development guide will hopefully serve as preventive medicine for a disease some have predicted Linux would contract: a fragmenting of the standard code base.

This malady infected the Unix community in the 1980s, resulting in several divergent development platforms. It weakened the development initiatives of many Unix vendors and opened the door for Microsoft Corp. with Windows, in the view of many observers.

Thus far, the so-called "forking" of Linux operating systems code has not materialized.

"Unix fragmented ... because it [was] not open-source software. It was only semi-open. Truly open-source code, like Linux, lets you do what you need to do and kills the incentive to fork the code," said Bob Young, chairman at Red Hat.

Elsewhere last week, Red Hat unveiled a new investment division charged with creating a variety of strategic relationships among Linux and open-source start-ups.

Called Red Hat Ventures, the group will accelerate Red Hat's investment strategies (the company has already taken stakes in SendMail and placing anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million in new companies.

"We also see huge opportunities in creating true partnerships with these companies. We can accelerate their ability to reach the global Linux market and they can enhance our ability to offer the broadest range of Internet solutions to enterprise customers," said Matthew Szulik, CEO of Red Hat.

Szulik will oversee the division along with Red Hat CFO Harold Covert and Director of Corporate Development Howard Jacobson.

Also last week, VA Linux Systems Inc. beefed up its services business, announcing plans to expand its Professional Services Division (PSD), adding a new program, and recruiting new technical and business talent.

According to VA Linux CEO Larry Augustin, the company's new support program, the VA Linux ISP JumpStart Program, is intended to help users in the planning, designing, and implementation of their Internet infrastructure solutions.

VA Linux also sought to improve its expertise in a number of other areas, including e-commerce, Web server farms, Internet-based multimedia and streaming, Linux driver development, and open-source application development.

To that end, the company has recruited several more key engineers to its PSD, bringing to 40 the number of engineers, business analysts, and other open-source experts it has hired during the last three months.

Red Hat Inc., in Research Tri-angle Park, North Carolina, is at

VA Linux Systems Inc., in Sunnyvale, California, is at

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