Linux vendors comply with base standard

Three leading Linux vendors Wednesday announced that they are backing a set of standards known as the Linux Standard Base (LSB), aimed at allowing developers to write applications that will run on any Linux operating system adhering to the LSB.

The three companies to earn certification for LSB 1.2, the newest version of the standard base, are Red Hat Inc., SuSE Linux AG and MandrakeSoft S.A.

The Free Standards Group, which heads LSB development, detailed the announcement during a LinuxWorld Conference and Expo press conference here.

While LSB has been in the works for more than a year, the Free Standards Group just launched its certification program in July. The certification process was designed to create a way to verify that a Linux distribution or Linux-based application will be compatible with products from various vendors.

"If you have an application that sticks to the LSB APIs (application program interfaces), it should work on any system that is LSB compliant," said Boris Nalbach, chief technology officer of SuSE, in Nuremberg, Germany.

Representatives of the popular open-source Web server Apache and the open-source file server Samba, said that they will build LSB support into future versions of their software releases.

Six other Linux vendors, including Sun Microsystems Inc., TurboLinux Inc. and Caldera International Inc., have said they plan to support LSB, though they have not passed the tests to become fully certified.

SuSE is hoping to expand the Linux standardization effort beyond LSB through the creation of UnitedLinux, a distribution of the operating system that joins together four Linux vendors.

"We're fully committed to LSB, but it's not enough," Nalbach said. "LSB is fantastic. The problem is it's API specific."

The final release of UnitedLinux, due out by the end of the year, will be LSB compliant, according to SuSE.

Some controversy has brewed over Red Hat's involvement with LSB. Critics of the company, including Sun, which launched a Linux version of its own this week, have claimed that Red Hat has skirted making its operating system standards compliant.

Red Hat countered those claims noting that it has been an active member in the group that helped develop LSB since its inception. "We've maintained continuous support of LSB," said Red Hat Chief Technology Officer Michael Tiemann during an interview Tuesday.

However, one analyst noted that Red Hat's support for the standard is not in line with its business strategy.

"It's not in their interest to be LSB compliant," said Stacey Quandt, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. She noted that Red Hat has attempted to set its operating system apart from other vendors with added features. "It's in their interest to make their operating system distinct so that they can lock in their customers."

But it is compatibility that is the goal of Linux, which has become the model of open-source software development, under which software source code is made freely available to users for testing and modification.

"Standardization always grows the market. This has always proven to be true," Nalbach said.

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