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Q&A: HP exec says Linux Foundation wants to push OS toward common ground

Martino says 'one Linux' interoperability is a key to advancing the open-source cause

By Todd R. Weiss
April 11, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In January, two open-source advocacy groups -- the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG) -- merged and formed the Linux Foundation. Last month, the new nonprofit organization named its board of directors, which includes representatives from Linux vendors and users, as well as Linux kernel developers and other open-source community members. Christine Martino, vice president of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Open Source and Linux Organization, is one of the board members. Martino spoke with Computerworld on Monday about the newly created foundation and what it plans to do to try continue to move the use of Linux forward. Excerpts from the interview follow:

What is the Linux Foundation going to focus on? It's really around three big things -- standardizing and driving the Linux Standard Base (LSB) efforts, promotion and collaboration. I think it's very good to have a neutral party, a nonvendor, promoting Linux. It also sets up a platform for collaboration...whether it's [with] the technical community, developers and even end users.

Has Linux become such a commodity in enterprise computing over the last few years that it's losing its luster of innovation and freshness? And is that something the foundation will address? I think there's still a lot of innovation happening around Linux, and a lot of freshness. Think about [using] Linux in virtualized environments and the work the foundation can do to help Linux APIs be the same, regardless of what Linux you're using or what virtualization technique you're using. How about increasing the scalability of Linux? 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 center and in much higher-level computing.

What will happen to the specialized workgroups that the OSDL and FSG had each set up to follow specific open-source projects? The workgroups will still exist. I think the foundation has done a very good job of putting together a proposal for the board on how to combine and carry forward the best of the best of both the FSG and OSDL workgroups, looking at things like virtualization, carrier-grade [networking], mobile, desktop, printing and more. Also, having a focus on device drivers, which is something that is a pain-point for customers.

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, and what does the group want to do to move open source forward within IT? 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 center. So the ecosystem and the needs of the community have changed. That's why we're looking at standardization -- at the LSB and how do we christen that, how do we make it a standard that will continue to drive one Linux? That's the Holy Grail there.

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