LSB certifications confuse Sun's Linux standards story

Smoke and mirrors

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Red Hat Inc, SuSE Linux AG, and MandrakeSoft SA have become the first Linux distributors to have their versions of the open source operating system certified as compliant with the Free Standards Group's Linux Standards Base (LSB) specification.

The announcement of the first certified distributions is particularly interesting given comments made by Sun Microsystems Inc's chairman and CEO Scott McNealy at this week's LinuxWorld. Launching Santa Clara, California-based Sun's first Linux distribution and server, McNealy launched an attack against market leader Red Hat. "We have to force the world to LSB compliance," McNealy told delegates as he announced Sun's support for the LSB. "Not Red Hat or IBM compliance."

McNealy's comment seems strange given that, according to Sun's own developer resources, Sun Linux 5.0 is "highly compatible with Red Hat Linux 7.2", and differentiated from Red Hat Linux 7.2 only by different RPM package manager versions and installer functions. Now that Raleigh, North Carolina-based Red Hat is one of the first distributors to become LSB-certified, McNealy's comments look increasingly like smoke and mirrors.

The certification of Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE's Linux distribution is also important to the future of the Linux market, as SuSE's Linux Enterprise Server forms the basis of the UnitedLinux partnership between SuSE, Caldera International Inc, Turbolinux Inc and Conectiva SA. The first product from that partnership is scheduled to enter closed beta at the end of the month.

The third certified distributor, Paris, France-based MandrakeSoft, recently rejected an approach to join the UnitedLinux initiative, preferring instead to differentiate its Linux distribution from the crowd. As MandrakeSoft's LSB certification indicates, that differentiation does not have to lead to fragmentation.

Launched in July 2001, the LSB is an attempt to create an agreed standard set of base-level Linux features to ensure a level of compatibility between distributions and portability for applications. The LSB features contributions from Red Hat, SuSE MandrakeSoft and Caldera as well as IBM Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co, Intel Corp, and Oracle Corp, among others.

Managed by the Oakland, California-based Free Standards Group, the LSB 1.1 specification was released in January 2002, followed by the certification program in June 2002. The certification program itself is managed by The Open Group, the keeper of the Unix 98 standards.

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