LSB -- Can It Help Network Managers Cope With Linux?: Page 2

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"I've had to write scripts for where the configuration files are located. I've also modified some of the source code, to make Linux act more like Solaris," Hammond says.

The University of Wisconsin is in the process of clustering Linux from Scratch servers, for operating high performance scientific and math applications on a mainframe system.

Walp predicts that standardization will also make it easier for administrators to take over from each other in managing Linux servers, if an administrator gets overloaded with work or leaves the company, for instance.

"Boxes are administrators' 'babies.' Administrators set up Linux servers in dramatically different ways. If there's a standard way of doing things, a new person can take over more quickly," he says.

Fixing security holes might get faster, too. "With LSB, the same security patch can be used for all distributions of Linux," according to Murcato.

Over the years, though, Linux standardization has walked a rough road. Red Hat and Debian, the original founders of the Linux Compatibility Standards (LCS) Project, arrived on the LSB scene later than some other vendors, teaming up with the LSB Project in 1998.

The LSB Project, in turn, joined with the Linux Internationalization Initiative (lil8nux), a group spearheaded by Turbolinux, under the bigger umbrella of the Free Standards Group. The LSB standard is based on software reference libraries from Caldera.

Red Hat refused to support LSB 1.0, the predecessor to 1.1. Engineers at Red Hat this week pointed to 1.0's lack of a "test suite and certification method" as the reason why.

Then, after the release of LSB 1.0 in June of 2001, some Debian administrators and developers became incensed that the standard specifies RPM as the way for packaging/unpackaging Linux applications. Many of them prefer Debian's DEB method.

"Some people didn't listen to the intent of the specification," responds Caldera's Terpstra. "We're trying to find the 'lowest common denominator.' We specified RPM because of the prevalence of ISV applications that use RPM. Also, every commercial distribution of Linux has a mechanism for unpackaging RPM. Alien (a Debian application) can unpackage RPM."

Other Debian administrators and developers, though, apparently understood the standard group's reasoning. "Yes, we all dislike RPM for our own reasons. However, the decision that the LSB made does make sense. The LSB is not meant to help you or me. It is meant to help companies support Linux," wrote one user, in an Internet news group posting.

Beyond putting in a new test suite, LSB 1.1 cleans up some software interfaces, adds new interfaces, and includes more details about header contents. Also in January, the Free Standards Group released version 1.0 of lil8nix, a standard for internationalization and localization based on code from Turbolinux.

Meanwhile, Red Hat and SuSE -- two companies that previously focused more on small businesses -- have started to try to line up with Caldera and Turbolinux in the enterprise network space.

From a network management perspective, the timetable for LSB 1.1 compliance is the biggest issue. Network managers won't really stand to gain till standards-compliant distributions and applications are widely available.

The LSB 1.1 specification and test suite are now downloadable from the Free Standards Group's Web site at http://www.freestandards.org . "So far, every Linux distribution has failed the test suite on some measure. As soon as a distribution passes the test suite, the certification process will be documented and released," Terpstra says.

Group members say they're confident, though, about reaching compliance and interoperability across Linux distributions. According to Terpstra, "Hundreds of organizations have been working on this. The hard work is done. Now, we're just hammering out the fleas."

Jacqueline Emigh is a 12-year veteran of computer journalism and currently freelances for several technology and business publications.

This article was first published on CrossNodes, an internet.com site.

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