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New Standard Reins In Linux Distros

VARs worried about looming fragmentation among Linux operating systems can take some comfort from a standardization effort that's coming to fruition at the Free Standards Group (FSG).

The nonprofit open-standards advocacy body has released the Linux Standard Base (LSB) 2.0, a spec that's intended to ensure that disparate distributions of the open-source OS are interoperable. Most important, industrywide adherence to LSB 2.0 will mean that ISVs and developers can take comfort in the fact that their applications will run on a compliant Linux platform.

That would save Linux from the fate that befell Unix two decades ago, as it began to devolve into a battle among competing "flavors," such as HP-UX, IBM's AIX and Sun's Solaris.

"If I, as a developer, have to port my application to two different distributions of Linux, that is one distribution too many," says Jon 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. The LSB provides that specification. Without this, we are no better than the proprietary Unix systems of old."

Adds Francois Bancilhon, CEO of Mandrakesoft, publisher of the MandrakeLinux operating system: "Given the dire consequences of fragmentation, the standards are a key ingredient to the success of Linux."
According to a statement released by the FSG, "the LSB standard ensures Linux will not fork and will continue to be the fastest-growing operating system in the industry. Application vendors will save millions of dollars by basing their applications on a clear set of standards."

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