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Two major Linux groups to merge

The two main evangelizers of the Linux operating system, Open Source Development Lab Inc. (OSDL) and Free Standards Group Inc. (FSG), are merging to form the Linux Foundation.

The two industry consortiums will announce on Monday that they're in the final stages of combining their respective operations, according to Jim Zemlin, who will head the Linux Foundation. He was the FSG's executive director.

With Linux now an established operating system presence for embedded, desktop and server systems, the primary evangelizing mission that the OSDL and FSG embarked upon in 2000 has come to an end, Zemlin said. The focus for the foundation will be to help the Linux community more effectively compete with its primary operating system rival Microsoft Corp.

The combination of the two Linux consortiums was "inevitable," said Michael Goulde, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "The challenge Linux faces is the same one Unix faced and failed -- how to become a single standard." If Linux is really to be a long-term product for customers, the open-source operating system needs to allow application developers to "develop once for Linux so their software can run on any distribution," he added. At present, Linux developers often are forced to tweak their applications so they can run on six or seven different distributions.

Interoperability is a key area to work on, as is backward compatibility between newer and older Linux releases, Zemlin said. At the same time, the foundation will look to expand the legal protection it offers developers and continue to provide a "safe haven" for Linux kernel developers, including the creator of the operating system Linus Torvalds, he added.

Within the open-source community, establishing foundations to act as focal points for particular areas of technology is an ongoing trend, according to Zemlin. The intention is that the Linux Foundation will become the go-to place for Linux development in the same way that the Eclipse Foundation is already the center of tools development, The Apache Software Foundation is the hub of Web server and middleware work, and The Mozilla Foundation is the heart of browser and Web interface creation, he said.

The OSDL and FSG always worked closely together and had discussed merging on several occasions, Zemlin said. However, the decision to merge wasn't related to the recent OSDL downsizing, he added. In early December, the OSDL announced plans to narrow its focus after laying off just under a third of its staff and the resignation of CEO Stuart Cohen.

There was a fair amount of overlap in members between the OSDL and FSG, Zemlin said. The Linux Foundation is staffed by 45 full-time employees and to date counts 70 members including Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Novell Inc., Oracle Corp. and Red Hat Inc., as well as universities and end users. Zemlin is keen for the foundation to attract new members particularly among end users, government agencies and individual developers.

Houston, Texas
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