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Q&A: New Linux group to push OS toward common ground

Christine Martino talks about the Linux Foundation’s plans to broaden the use of Linux

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In January, two open source advocacy groups, the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG), merged to form the Linux Foundation. Late last month, the non-profit organisation named a board of directors that includes Christine Martino, vice president of HP's open source and Linux organisation. Martino talks about the newly created foundation’s plans to continue to broaden the use of Linux.

Q: What is the Linux Foundation going to focus on? A: It’s really around three big things: standardising and driving the Linux Standard Base [LSB] efforts, promotion and collaboration. I think it’s very good to have a neutral party, a non-vendor, promoting Linux. It also sets up a platform for collaboration, whether it’s [involving] the technical community, developers and even end users.

Q: Has Linux become such a commodity in enterprise computing over the past few years that it’s losing its lustre of innovation and freshness? A: I think there’s still a lot of innovation happening around Linux and a lot of freshness. Think about [running] Linux in virtualised environments and the work the foundation can do to help Linux APIs be the same, regardless of what Linux you’re using or what virtualisation technique you’re using.

Q: How about increasing the scalability of Linux? A: There’s still more work to be done there. A lot has happened in the last few years, but there’s still more work to be done to get Linux used deeper into the data centre and in much higher-level computing.

Q: The foundation says it wants to focus on further developing the overall community “ecosystem” around Linux and open source technologies. What does that really mean? A: It’s really about intelligently looking at what the user base, the community and the developers need to continue to advance with Linux. When you look at the combination of OSDL and FSG, one asks, “Why did that happen?” Well, because Linux has matured and is in a different place today. It needs a different set of things to take it to the next level, which doesn’t mean that innovation is gone or that freshness is gone. It means you’re building on a foundation now where Linux has gone into the data centre. So the ecosystem and the needs of the community have changed.

That’s why we’re looking at standardisation -- at the LSB and how we make it a standard that will continue to drive one Linux. That’s the Holy Grail right there.

Q: Where do you and other members of the board of directors want the Linux market to go in the future? A: What I’d like to see over the next few years is really great progress on adopting the LSB, and on things like carrier-grade Linux standards. Not just standards on paper, but standards that are tested and certified so they’re useful for users. And I’d like to see real improvements in the availability of device drivers so customers really notice it’s not the problem that it was before.

Q: Is getting Linux widely adopted on corporate desktops still a realistic goal? A: I’m seeing the interest in Linux on the desktop grow a bit from a worldwide perspective. It’s been something that has been pretty interesting in [Europe, the Middle East and Africa] and some other regions -- certainly in developing countries. You didn’t hear much about it in North America, but over the last six months or so, I’m personally hearing a lot more interest in Linux on the desktop. It’s definitely a focus for the foundation. I think it’s an area that is kind of a “watch this space” for the next couple of years.

Q: What are you most passionate about when it comes to Linux and open source software? A: The choice and opportunity that Linux and open source software give to our customers. It gives them a very valid industry standard operating system choice. And now as open source is moving up the [corporate] stack more, with choices and alternatives in the middleware space, that can give customers not just the [total cost of ownership] benefits, but a number of other benefits -- like the ability to drive the direction of a product you're using, which you can't do with proprietary software. That's total freedom for a customer.

Q: What do you think it will take for the Linux Foundation to be a success? A: As the LSB gets more widely accepted, as we get closer to the vision of one Linux from a vendor perspective, that is critical. I’d like to see the foundation really [be] recognised as the voice of Linux from a worldwide perspective. If we can accomplish that, it would be a real win.


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