ad info
   personal technology

 Headline News brief
 news quiz
 daily almanac

 video archive
 multimedia showcase
 more services

Subscribe to one of our news e-mail lists.
Enter your address:
Get a free e-mail account

 message boards

CNN Websites
 En Español
 Em Português


Networks image
 more networks

 ad info



Vendors working to prevent Linux fragmentation

February 14, 2000
Web posted at: 10:54 a.m. EST (1554 GMT)

by Bruce Tober


(IDG) -- Forking, the development of ever-so-slight (or possibly not-so-slight) differences between versions or distribution of a program, was of great concern at the recent LinuxWorld Expos in both Paris and New York.

At the former gathering, I spoke separately on the issue with Robert LeBlanc, vice president for software strategy of the IBM Software Group, and with Roland Dyroff, CEO of SuSE.

Both men noted their companies' strong support for the Linux Standards Base, the organization which is attempting to ensure interoperability and to prevent any Unix-like fragmentation of Linux. But they came at the issue from somewhat different perspectives. According to LeBlanc, "The concern in both the US and Europe is fragmentation."

He said IBM's customers and others have questions: "Does this thing fragment? Do we wind up with multiple different distributions of Linux, but it's not Linux because each has its own unique flavor?"

He said IBM has "been actively pushing -- because we're not a distributor of Linux and we made a conscious decision that we don't foresee, at least in the near future, being a Linux distributor -- [to support] the Linux Standards Base (LSB). We're driving an effort to get the LSB incorporated.

  LinuxWorld's home page
  LinuxWorld free e-mail alerts
  LinuxWorld features & columns
  Torvalds opens LinuxWorld with keynote address
  Reviews & in-depth info at
  Year 2000 World
  Questions about computers? Let's editors help you
  Subscribe to's free daily newsletter for IT leaders
  Search in 12 languages
  News Radio
  * Fusion audio primers
  * Computerworld Minute

"We want to get that body to really be the body that keeps the Linux community together in terms of its APIs and the other standard pieces of Linux, because today it's really controlled by a set of individuals. And they've done a fabulous job of keeping it together, but you have to have something that's a little more structured and repeatable," LeBlanc said.

Dyroff, on the other hand, told me that while SuSE is "very active in and supporting [of] the LSB project ... we do not want to limit diversity and only maintain one single version of Linux, because we are talking about creative potential here and room for innovation.

"We're talking about competition pushing you into a direction if you get a little bit too slow at some points. But it's a very healthy process," he said.

Dyroff noted that the LSB "wants to provide a definition of a system [so] that an independent software vendor (ISV) has a target to port to." Dyroff explained, "That means if you are an ISV and your software works with LSB standard, then you can be sure that it properly installs and works on any Linux distribution that is compliant with that standard. While the project [has been] running now for quite a while, you should expect to get some new output very soon now."

On the other hand, Dyroff said that, at present, forking is not much of a problem. "I think the differences are not as big as they might appear now."

LeBlanc said that IBM tests its software products to make certain they work on what he calls the four major distributions -- Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE, and TurboLinux. "We've been doing testing of all of our products. For the most part, they are very compatible, because they all have a common kernel. It's when you start adding those additional packages on, in which you can get some uniqueness in the various distributions, that trouble could arise," he said.

"So today it's staying together, but as this thing grows from being very much a niche, which is kind of where Linux has been, to really becoming kind of mainstream, to the marketplace putting high market caps on some of these Linux companies. Does that keep the same kind of spirit and behavior? It's going to be a real test of time," he concluded.

Like Dyroff, LeBlanc believes the problem is nonexistent now, but that "the potential is there for forking, and that's why we're working closely with all the different distributors. That's the fundamental reason why we're supporting all the major distributors, rather than just one distributor," he said.

And LeBlanc is also concerned about the consequences of too stringent a standardization. "We don't think it's good to have one distributor having total control of the standard. We've seen that before and seen what's happened. That's why we're willing to play with the major distributors. To be honest with you, it takes more work with all the major distributors, but in the end we think that achieves the goals of ubiquity and consistency that the market really demands. And we want Linux to succeed."

Network storage vendors take to Linux
February 10, 2000
Training takes center stage at LinuxWorld Paris
February 9, 2000
Corel Linux OS ideal for desktops
February 2, 2000
Creative Computers to launch Linux portal site
January 27, 2000
Meet the new Penguin Games system
January 26, 2000

Linux debate sheds light on vendor strategies
(Network World Fusion)
Training takes center stage at LinuxWorld Paris
IBM leads Linux charge
Torvalds opens LinuxWorld with keynote address
Linux progenitor preaches balance
Challenges ahead for the Linux Standards Base
Fragmentation can be a good thing, Linux creator says
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

The Linux Standards Base
Linux at IBM
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.