Article

Linux Standard Base may improve software portability

Jack Loftus, News Writer
According to a report from Saugatuck Technology Inc., new testing standards contained in the latest version of the Linux Standard Base (LSB) server specification could boost the confidence of IT managers looking to integrate Linux applications into their data centers.

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On April 9, the Linux Foundation updated the LSB server specification to version 3.1. This specification includes standards for a new LSB Distribution Testkit, which the organization calls "the first automated open source testing tool for the Linux platform." The goal of the new kit, according to members of the Linux Foundation, is to make it easier to write and test applications across different Linux distributions.

Analysts at Westport, Conn.-based Saugatuck believe that improving and simplifying test processes for developers will trickle down to the data center and make IT managers more apt to run their mission-critical applications on Linux.

The LSB was created in 2001 by the Free Standards Group as a set of interface standards that enable a Linux application to run on any LSB-compliant distribution. Leading Linux distributions like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Novell SUSE Enterprise Server, Debian and Ubuntu all comply with the LSB standard.

Saugatuck managing director of research Bruce Guptill said he was inclined to agree with goals of the LSB. Guptill said different Linux distributions -- and, in some cases, different versions of the same distribution -- have often required different testing tools and practices.

"This increased complexity reduces user IT department satisfaction with Linux, adds significantly to the cost of implementation and maintenance, and decreases Linux's credibility as a commercially viable production environment," he said.

Guptill also said the LSB update from the Linux Foundation was an important step toward the broader development of standardized Linux testing and tools. He believes any improvements in Linux suitability, satisfaction and credibility for mission-critical environments would allow Linux to continue its growth on the server.

Ultimately, Guptill said standardization is not the be-all, end-all for the OS.

"Standardized testing by itself will not accelerate Linux adoption, but it does fill in more potholes on the road to open source in the data center, allowing other factors to drive adoption faster," Guptill said. Faster adoption of standardized Linux in the data center will allow the OS to seep into other mission-critical areas like systems management (monitoring, load balancing and data modeling) and virtualization, he said.

By 2011, Saugatuck analysts predict that approximately 50% of all mission critical application loads will be run on Linux.

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