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As part of ebizQ's "Talking with…" series, we caught up with Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation (LF), a group that we first blogged about back in January 2007. The LF is a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux. It is funded by Google, H-P, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Intel and others and was formed in January by a merger of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and Free Software Group (FSG).

I said at the time that the leading IT suppliers support in founding the LF was like their merging of X/Open and the Open Software Foundation (OSF) into The Open Group a decade ago. For starters, Jim explained why my analogy is a little off. Industry dynamics have changed. Despite their still large revenue streams (both H-P and IBM do north of $90 billion in revenue), systems suppliers do not have the market power they had 10 years ago and therefore cannot try to impose their own proprietary operating system, the various flavors of UNIX circa 1995, on the market. In fact, what we see in the LF is a real live example of the industry learning from its mistakes. Today the big IT suppliers don't want to either fight over a commodity, the operating system, and/or let the commodity fragment the way UNIX did into multiple standards in the early 1990s.

The LF, in addition to lobbying for Linux' success (and actually employing Linus Torvalds and some other key Linux kernel committers), provides an interface standard and testing tools that cover the whole Linux platform, including selected GNU utilities and development tools such as Perl and Python. Note that its standard and tools do not cover higher elements of the stack such as middleware or databases. This self control in focus is another lesson learned vis-a-vis the Open Group: stick to one thing and do it well. The Open Group tried to standardize right up the stack, back at a time when the stack was much more complex because it included multiple user interfaces and communications protocols. The LF self-test lets distributors certify that their 'distro' is truly Linux and it lets applications developers certify that their solutions are portable across certified 'Lini.'

For this reason, I think, Jim did concede some points from my original analogy in that the specifications that the LF has released are Posix like. So I'm changing my analogy: the LF is what the Java Community Process should have been all along.


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