The Free Standards Group (FSG) on Tuesday will release Version 2.0 of its Linux Standard Base (LSB), a key standard that enables developers to rally around a common programming framework and keeps Linux from fragmenting into competing camps.
One of the new ingredients to Version 2.0 is the Application Binary Interface (ABI) for C++ and the support for 32- and 64-bit hardware architectures. This added support will help make Linux an even more pervasive technology in companies both large and small as well as guarantee that it will run on all versions of Linux from major distributors, officials from FSG believe.
"(Microsoft's) C++ is the most widely used programming language in the world, so it opens up the ability for thousands of enterprise applications to be certified to the LSB. It provides, for instance, major ERP vendors with a cost-effective way of reaching the Linux marketplace. It means the LSB has global coverage all the way from Red Hat to Red Flag," said Jim Zemlin, executive director of FSG.
Most of the top-tier vendors that have strategic Linux-based strategies in place endorsed the new version, including IBM, Intel, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard. Top Linux distributors followed suit with their endorsements, including Novell with its Suse Linux, Red Hat, Turbolinux, Mandrakesoft, China-based Red Flag Software, and Brazil-based Connectiva.
Concern that the Linux development community might fragment, much like the Unix world did in the late 1980s and early 1990s, thereby leaving the competitive door open for Microsoft, has been an almost constant priority during the last several years. Some industry observers believe LSB can play a central role in preventing just that.
"If I, as a developer, have to port my application to two different distributions of Linux, that is one distribution too many," said Jon "Maddog" Hall, executive director of Linux International.
"The way of assuring that every distribution has all the applications it needs to be successful is through specifying and applying a cross-distribution, cross-application, neutrally determined standard," Hall said. "The LSB can provide that specification. Without this, we are no better than the proprietary Unix systems of old."
Other new software capabilities added to LSB 2.0 include support for Single Unix Specification 3.0. In addition, LSB 2.0 includes test suites and a development environment, a sample implementation of a complete LSB-based distribution, and developer documentation, FSG officials said.
The new 64-bit hardware support includes the IBM PowerPC 64, S/390, and S/390X platforms and Advanced Micro Device's 64-bit Opteron chip. Intel's 32-bit and 64-bit architectures are also supported.
IDC, which predicted in 1997 that Linux would become a mainstream operating system in all major segments of the industry by the end 2005, still believes the open source operating system is on track to achieve that goal.
"It appears that this process is well under way now. Linux has already achieved this status in some markets. Multi-vendor, multi-platform standards, such as the Linux Standards Base, are a critical success factor if distributors, independent software suppliers, and end-user organizations are going to continue to invest in Linux," said Dan Kusnetzky, IDC's vice president of system software research.
More information on the LSB 2.0 and FSG is available at http://www.freestandards.org.