Linux Foundation pushes OS to common ground

HP's open source vice president speaks about the newly formed Linux Foundation

In January, two open-source advocacy groups -- the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG) -- merged and formed the Linux Foundation. Last month, the new nonprofit organization named its board of directors, which includes representatives from Linux vendors and users, as well as Linux kernel developers and other open-source community members. Christine Martino, vice president of Hewlett-Packard's Open Source and Linux Organization, is one of the board members. Martino spoke with Todd R. Weiss on Monday about the newly created foundation and what it plans to do to try continue to move the use of Linux forward.

What is the Linux Foundation going to focus on?

It's really around three big things -- standardizing and driving the Linux Standard Base (LSB) efforts, promotion and collaboration. I think it's very good to have a neutral party, a nonvendor, promoting Linux. It also sets up a platform for collaboration...whether it's [with] the technical community, developers and even end users.

Has Linux become such a commodity in enterprise computing over the last few years that it's losing its luster of innovation and freshness? And is that something the foundation will address?

I think there's still a lot of innovation happening around Linux, and a lot of freshness. Think about [using] Linux in virtualizing environments and the work the foundation can do to help Linux APIs be the same, regardless of what Linux you're using or what virtualization technique you're using. How about increasing the scalability of Linux? There's still more work to be done there. A lot has happened in the last few years, but there's still more work to be done to get Linux used deeper into the data center and in much higher-level computing.

What will happen to the specialized workgroups that the OSDL and FSG had each set up to follow specific open-source projects?

The workgroups will still exist. I think the foundation has done a very good job of putting together a proposal for the board on how to combine and carry forward the best of the best of both the FSG and OSDL workgroups, looking at things like virtualization, carrier-grade [networking], mobile, desktop, printing and more. Also, having a focus on device drivers, which is something that is a pain-point for customers.

The foundation says it wants to focus on further developing the overall community "ecosystem" around Linux and open-source technologies. What does that really mean, and what does the group want to do to move open source forward within IT?

It's really about intelligently looking at what the user base, the community and the developers need to continue to advance with Linux. When you look at the combination of OSDL and FSG, one asks, "Why did that happen?" Well, because Linux has matured and is in a different place today. It needs a different set of things to take it to the next level, which doesn't mean that innovation is gone, or that freshness is gone. It means you're building on a foundation now where Linux has gone into the data center. So the ecosystem and the needs of the community have changed. That's why we're looking at standardization -- at the LSB and how do we christen that, how do we make it a standard that will continue to drive one Linux? That's the Holy Grail there.

Page Break

Where does the group want to see the Linux market in the future?

What I'd really like to see over the next few years is really great progress on adopting the LSB...and on things like carrier-grade Linux standards. Not just standards on paper, but standards that are tested and certified so they're useful for users. And I'd like to see real improvements in the availability of device drivers so customers really notice it's not the problem that it was before.

Is getting Linux widely adopted on corporate desktops still a goal?

I'm seeing the interest in Linux on the desktop grow a bit from a worldwide perspective. It's been something that has been pretty interesting in [Europe, the Middle East and Asia] and some other regions -- certainly in developing countries. You didn't hear much about it in North America, but over the last six months or so, I'm personally hearing a lot more interest in Linux on the desktop. It's definitely a focus for the foundation. I think it's an area that is kind of a "watch this space" for the next couple [of] years.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to Linux and open-source software?

The choice and opportunity that Linux and open-source software give to our customers. It gives them a very valid industry standard operating system choice. And now as open source is moving up the [corporate] stack more, with choices and alternatives in the middleware space, that can give customers not just the [total cost of ownership] benefits, but a number of other benefits -- like the ability to drive the direction of a product you're using, which you can't do with proprietary software. That's total freedom for a customer.

What do you think it will it take for the Linux Foundation to succeed?

As the LSB gets more and more widely accepted, as we get closer to the vision of one Linux from a vendor perspective, that is critical. I'd like to see the foundation really [be] recognized as the voice of Linux from a worldwide perspective. If we can accomplish that, that would be a real win.