The New Linux Standard
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Efforts to create a Linux standard gained some ground today with the release of the Linux Standards Base (LSB) 3.0 specification. The latest LSB standard is an effort to help prevent the fragmentation of Linux and is widely supported by major Linux vendors.
The LSB specification is maintained and developed by the Free Standards Group and is intended to provide interoperability standards via a base set of APIs and libraries so ISVs can develop and port applications that will work on LSB-certified Linux distributions.
The LSB standard currently supports seven architectures including IA32, IA64, PPC32, PPC64, S390, S390X and X86_64.
LSB 3.0 comes a year after the LSB 2.0 was introduced and includes a number of enhancements over its predecessor.
According to Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Free Standards Group, the most important thing is that LSB 3.0 contains an updated application binary interface (ABI) for C++, which is supported by all major distributions.
"This greatly reduces the costs and time for ISVs who want to support more than one distribution," Zemlin told internetnews.com. "Also, a significant change is that all the distros are all on board and certified from the very beginning. We're in sync with their product release cycles. Again this makes it easier for ISVs to target the Linux platform."
The Free Standards Group noted that Red Hat, Novell, the Debian Common Core Alliance and Asianux were all certifying their distributions to the LSB. Other distributions are expected to follow, according to Zemlin.
"The release focused on our first wave of certifications but is by no means exhaustive or final," Zemlin said. "We have a quote of support from Mandriva and are working with these vendors, and many others, to achieve certification. Other vendors have different release cycles that affect when and what they certify."
Some have argued that since each Linux distribution uses its own kernel version, (that is not "plain vanilla" Linux.org kernels) and since each uses its own set of core components which may be at different version levels that fragmentation already exists. Zemlin disagrees.
"Kernel version does not have an impact on LSB compliance," Zemlin explained. "Any application written to the LSB will work regardless because the interfaces for LSB apps are at a much higher level than direct-system-level interfaces into a piece of hardware."
"Developers who write their application to the LSB-specified ABI will have a portable application across LSB environments regardless of kernel version," he added.
LSB 3.0 is not the end of the road of Linux standardization.
"For 4.0, we will have the modules for the specification built out in the desktop and manageability," Zemlin said. "These two areas are very important as Linux expands both in consumer and enterprise markets around the world and especially in emerging markets.
"You will also see the FSG open a certification authority in China and add IDE support into the LSB."