Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin
Source: Linux Foundation
Standing at the headwaters of the ecosystem that is Linux is the Linux Foundation and its executive director Jim Zemlin. The Linux Foundation was forged out of the merger of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group in 2007 as a new group with a new mandate for Linux.
Now some 20 months after the Linux Foundation was created, Zemlin is claiming the group is succeeding and argues that it will remain relevant for the next 50 years. The Linux Foundation's goal is to promote and develop the Linux platform as it ramps up against Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Unix and embedded OS vendors.
"Things have gone better than I would have expected," Zemlin told InternetNews.com. "We're in the business of growing the Linux platform and making sure the development process of Linux is maintained in a way that is productive and safe."
The Linux Foundation also has the task of making sure that key developers of Linux such as Linus Torvalds have a neutral place to work. Torvalds is employed by the Linux Foundation.
"One of the things that make Linux work as a development project is the fact that Linus [Torvalds], who is the final decision maker on the release of the kernel, works at a place that is not one of the competitors that collaborates on the project," Zemlin commented.
Collaboration is one of the key things that the Linux Foundation aims to provide. In the Linux and open source communities, many projects can be developed successfully without the need for an overarching organizational body. Then there are projects that actually need the organization that the Linux Foundation can provide.
"The Foundation is a perfect place for people to come together on projects that are difficult, long, require coordination and aren't necessarily strategic from a competitive point of view so vendors want to share the cost," Zemlin explained.
One such effort that has been spearheaded by the Linux Foundation is the Linuxprinting.org initiative. Getting printer drivers on Linux has historically been challenging for end users. Linuxprinting.org is a plug-and-play framework for Linux such that when a user plugs in a printer it will be identified and the latest distribution independent driver can be pulled from the Web site.
The Linux Foundation is also the leader of the Linux Standards Base (LSB), which is a carry-over effort from Zemlin's FSG. The LSB aims to provide baseline standards for Linux to make it easier for developers to write applications for multiple Linux distributions. LSB 4.0 is due out later this year.
At the FSG, Zemlin also was trying to come up with a unified Linux-packaging solution, it's an initiative the doesn't seem to have much momentum at the Linux Foundation. Today mechanisms and formats for Linux packaging abound and can be a potential barrier for software developers. According to Zemlin, the issue has little to do with technology.
"Packaging is not a technical issue to solve," Zemlin argued. "Everyone just has a different approach, and they can't agree on just one. It's really just an issue of discipline within the industry and the community," he said. "I'm not the cop here on this stuff, and I would rather see community members coming to a rough consensus rather than us saying what to do."
Consensus building is something that the Linux Foundation is trying hard to achieve by way of a more open approach to membership and participation than the predecessor organization OSDL had.
"We've expanded the board to be more participatory and opened up seats for community members," Zemlin said. "We have more board-level representation from smaller organizations, and the ability to be on our board is much more affordable than it was under the OSDL."