Two Major Linux Groups Merge to Fight Microsoft

The two main evangelizers of the Linux operating system, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG), are merging to form the Linux Foundation.

The two industry consortiums announced today that they're in the final stages of combining their respective operations, according to Jim Zemlin, who will head the Linux Foundation. He was the FSG's executive director.

With Linux now an established operating system presence for embedded, desktop, and server systems, the primary evangelizing mission that the OSDL and FSG embarked on in 2000 has come to an end, Zemlin says. The focus for the foundation going forward is on what the organization can do to help the Linux community more effectively compete with its primary operating system rival Microsoft.

A Single Standard

The combination of the two Linux consortiums was "inevitable," says Michael Goulde, senior analyst with Forrester Research. "The challenge Linux faces is the same one Unix faced and failed--how to become a single standard." If Linux is really to be a long-term product for customers, the open-source operating system needs to allow application developers to "develop once for Linux so their software can run on any distribution," he adds. At present, Linux developers often are forced to tweak their applications so they can run on six to seven different distributions.

Interoperability is a key area to work on, as is backward compatibility between newer and older Linux releases, Zemlin says. At the same time, the foundation will look to expand the legal protection it offers developers and continue to provide a "safe haven" for Linux kernel developers, including the creator of the Linux operating system, Linus Torvalds, he adds.

Within the open-source community, the establishment of foundations to act as focal points for working on particular areas of technologies is an ongoing trend, according to Zemlin. The intention is that the Linux Foundation will become the go-to place for Linux development in much the way that the Eclipse Foundation is already the center of tools development, the Apache Software Foundation is the hub of Web server and middleware work, and the Mozilla Foundation is the heart of browser and Web interface creation, he says.

Merger Background

The OSDL and FSG always worked closely together and had discussed merging on several occasions, Zemlin says. However, the decision to merge was unrelated to the recent OSDL downsizing, he adds. In early December, the OSDL announced plans to narrow its focus after laying off just under a third of its staff and after the resignation of CEO Stuart Cohen.

There was a fair amount of overlap in membership between the OSDL and the FSG, Zemlin says. The Linux Foundation, staffed by 45 full-time employees and contractors, will begin life with some 70 members including software vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Novell, Oracle, and Red Hat, as well as universities and end users. Zemlin is keen for the foundation to attract new members, particularly among end users, government agencies, and individual developers.

The foundation's Web site provides an introduction to the new organization and its goals, as well as links to the technical work the OSDL and the FSG were engaged in and that the Linux Foundation has pledged to continue.

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