Novell CEO calls for new Linux distro ISV standard, praises FSF

Novell CEO calls for new Linux distro ISV standard, praises FSF

Summary: Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said the Linux industry must create a vendor neutral standard for application development or face the same fragmentation that killed Unix.Speaking before a packed audience at LinuxWorld at the Moscone Center Wednesday, the Novell CEO said the Linux Standards Base (LSB) is a good start but it's not enough.


Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said the Linux industry must create a vendor neutral standard for application development or face the same fragmentation that killed Unix.

linuxworld-1a.pngSpeaking before a packed audience at LinuxWorld at the Moscone Center Wednesday, the Novell CEO said the Linux Standards Base (LSB) is a good start but it's not enough. A standard Linux ISV certification is needed to prevent fragmentation and build an ISV community like the one Microsoft created for Windows, he said.

“In Unix, we fragmented the applications and the No. 1 thing we need is applications. We need customers and the ISVs to have their footprints on the Linux platform,” he said. “If you look at the competition and Windows their application availability is their biggest advantage. They’ve got the applications."

The Linux distribution market won’t expand until the platform is consistent. “It’s a vision … so that ISVs can certify their application once and seamlessly port it across multiple Linux distributions. The vendors win. It opens up a broader market for applications and the customers," he said.

And in spite of the ugly battle that erupted between the open source community and Novell following its proprietary interoperability pact with Microsoft signed last year, Hovsepian thanked the Free Software Foundation and its eloquent general counsel Eben Moglen for creating and enforcing the General Public License, and more subtly, for grand-fathering the Novell-Microsoft agreement in the final version of GPL3.

He claimed the coupons for SUSE Linux customers get from Microsoft and redeem from Novell adhere to the GPL and Microsoft does not “feel that they are a legal party to the contract," Hovsepian said.

“Linux would not be where it is today. We thank them and compliment them for their work on the GPL and we’ll ship GPL3 in [SUSE Linux Enterprise Server] as those packages become available,” he said.

In the same vein, the Novell CEO praised proprietary software companies for jumping on the Linux bandwagon, including Oracle’s leap into the Linux distribution support market -- based on a variation of Novell rival Red Hat -- and even Microsoft’s additional deals with Linux distributors Linspire and Xandros.

Sometimes you’ve got to make a deal with the devil to satisfy customer needs, he hinted. “We’ve had 20 years battling with the Microsoft company in our blood but the reality is [that it is a mixed source environment] when you walk through the customers door,” he said.

“Microsoft is a reality in the mixed source world,” he said. “We see the evolution of our partners’ development models and we see more of a mixed source world where customer can focus on the real value of the software and the real value is how software works together. "

Novell hasn't backed down on its support for OpenDocument and won't switch to OpenXML, he claimed. Novell instead provides for customers OpenXML translators to bridge the gap with Microsoft Office.

Topics: Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Software

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  • What about this Ron !

    You are doing everything you can to destroy Linux. Thanks!
  • You mean like

    I think that was tried before and SCO Group stabbed everyone in the back on that one.

    More power to Novell, but I think they should re-affirm or gather people under past efforts if they can and build from there. This crap about coming out with 12341239163789 standards doesn't serve much purpose if one vendor decides to derail the entire effort and cause all sorts of chaos.
  • Enforcing order.

    de facto standards are influential. Red Hat controls the commercial Linux market so thoroughly that Oracle may have the right idea of how to create a new distribution.

    So the idea of creating de jure standards is helpful for the also-ran like SuSE.

    But that may change Red Hat's design only as much as Microsoft is influenced by the "standards" created by antagonists and competitors to hobble the company's products.
    Anton Philidor
    • Am I reading this right?

      You're saying that open standards which allow interoperability are 'designed' to 'hobble' Microsoft's products.

      Oh, it's all so clear now, I thought Microsoft were deliberately keeping their proprietary standards secret to hobble interoperability with the products of everyone else in the world but what they've actually been doing is embracing 'freedom' from tyrranical open standards which anyone can understand.

      Right you are sir.
      • It's just Anton's view of MS-reality...

        ... he occasionally says things like this. OTOH occasionally he makes a lot of sense.

        Anton's the "Curate's Egg" of ZD-Net!
      • Interoperability is fine.

        It's making de jure standards that purposely exclude the innovations of the oppressed that's the problem.

        Let's not name a company for this example.

        Let's say that a company makes unique software which allows a three-dimensional image of a sales to come out of the screen and stand in front of you, hectoring you until you agree to buy the product.

        For an advertiser, electronics would have come of age.

        Now let's say that a standards committee (one with a due regard for sanity) decides that the standards shall not include the capabilities necessary for salesman-in-every-device. And in fact include provisions which such software would have to violate.

        That's a (well-justified hostile) action.

        Standards can favor one technology over another, even exclude far more worthwhile technologies if a majority of the participants are so minded.

        The reason for raising this issue is the difficulty a standard setter can have with Red Hat because of the company's market power. If there is a Red Hat way and an alternate way, the Red Hat commercial server market share can tip the balance.
        Anton Philidor
        • In which case the answer to that would be...

 make an open standard of your own which everyone can use, like Adobe did with PDF so everyone can use it, make their own viewers, import and export and so on and so forth. Unlike the 'official' standard of PostScript, PDF is everywhere because it is superior. If it were a mere case of MS not wanting to use the 'official' open standards, they would make all of their own standards open so people could understand them.

          Contrary to your somewhat surrealist view of standards bodies, they do not have some kind of control over what people use and standards from other sources can win out over 'official' standards.

          What MS do is create their own standards and then hide them so only their software can work well with their software which is precisely what interoperability is not. If MS were serious about interoperability they would make [u]all[/u] of their standards open instead of using them to exclude competitors.
          • So some standards can be hidden, others ignored.

            Quoting, on hidden standards:

            What MS do[es] is create their own standards and then hide them so only their software can work well with [them].

            ... and on ignored standards:

            ... standards from other sources can win out over 'official' standards.

            From the context, I think you consider it acceptable that the unofficial standards win out. Those from "standards bodies" are only one entrant in the competition for acceptance.

            Looking also at your comments about pdf, I'd say you believe standards to be defined primarily by widespread use and that they are required only to be described openly so that those who do not work for the provider of the standard can make use of them.

            Though you describe hidden aspects of Microsoft's software as standards, I think you disapprove of that sort of standard, so I'm including openness in my attempt to identify your definition of a "good" standard.

            Microsoft benefits from what's called the network effect. That meant Windows became popular in part because of the many applications available, and the applications were written for Windows because it was so popular.
            A benign circle from Microsoft's point of view.

            Microsoft further encouraged this advantageous situation by providing as much help to application developers as possible, including time-saving capabilities in the software used by many, and documenting the company's software well enough to make use of the software easier for third parties.

            So Microsoft has wide use and has provided thorough documentation (where beneficial to the company). That should make Microsoft a largely acceptable source of standards for you. With exceptions, as when Microsoft forced competing office suite to reverse engineer formats.

            As examples of the implications of your definition, Microsoft's standards in IE do and should displace the attempted W3C standards, and Microsoft's formats for Office were acceptable prior to their submittal to international organizations.

            That's certainly acceding to Microsoft's self-inerest more than many would allow the company.

            I think a standard arises from agreement among the interested, with the caveat that the process not be used to create commercial advantage or disadvantage. The W3C should be able to create standards, but not excluding Microsoft's innovations for its software. If that means multiple standards answering the same problem, so be it.

            Standard setting should be a benevolently cooperative process, acknowledging widespread use, but not limited to ratification of de facto standards.
            Anton Philidor
          • We're not talking about how "red" red should be...

            We're talking about standardizing Linux's base OS components. This has nothing
            to do with Adobe, Word, Open Office, or the color red, but rather the platform
            upon which these user-land applications are built.

            Don't derail this into open source versus the rest of the world as that's not what
            the discussion is about. It's about a stable and predictable Linux-GNU operating
            system upon which a software vendor - such as Adobe or Open Office dot Org -
            can build their applications against. It's about knowing that software written for
            Red Hat EL5 will work properly with Ubuntu, SuSE, SlackWare or Puppy Linux as
            well without requiring major rebuilds of applications for each distribution.
          • I'm just on about supporting open standards.

            It really doesn't matter where a standard comes from so long as everyone supports it, so let whatever company use their own special standard so long as they still support the standards used by everyone else and give you a choice. Let Red Hat create an entirely new way of file-sharing/serving so long as they still support NFS/SMB/CIFS/etc and maybe, if it's superior, other distros will start using it and it will take over in a way that everyone can use regardless of OS (except, probably, Windows).

            No, it's not about Red being Red, but LSB isn't just about the shared libraries either. The point I have been [i]trying[/i] to make, with the PDF analogy, is that standards bodies don't have the final say on what actually becomes standard so complaining that they're some kind of restrictive force bent on crippling innovation is a hock and a crock.
          • MS Creates Their Own Standards...

            I've been a programmer for awhile with MS and a certified tech under their umbrella for over a decade. What you are saying about MS hiding their standards or just blatantly creating their own in the face of already established standards (anyone program for IE and Firefox?) is absolutely the way it is.

            If we want a standard, keep MS and the company's bloody hands off of it and let the technical people create the standards. Then, let the companies use the standards as is. If they don't like it, let them live in their alternate reality of "the wonders of IT".

            After 20 years of this crap, I've seen enough to tell you it can't work the MS way.
          • Thankyou.

            I guess I should be glad I haven't had a chance to endure it for 20 years.
        • Laughable!

          Mr Philidor has made a staggering number of ignorant & biased comments, but this has to be the pearl in the shell:

          <b>"It's making de jure standards that purposely exclude the innovations of the oppressed that's the problem."</b>

          We all know of Antons (blatantly obvious) bias toward all things that comes from Redmond.

          But to go as far in his zealotry to call Microsoft an "opressed" entity, is just so comical, I don't even know where to begin!

          Go ahead Anton, keep "protecting" the poor "opressed" Redmond "company", they need all the "support" you can muster....
          • Glad you enjoyed the phrasing.

            I have from time to time written narratives on Microsoft as a symbol of liberty when countries try to restrict what government employees, even the general population can do on computers. I usually try to include the refrain, Give us freedom, Give us Microsoft.

            I hope you have occasion to see the next such post since you enjoy this type humor.
            Anton Philidor
          • the refrain, Give us freedom

            That is trying to surface from the dim
            recesses of your mind was made by a
            recognized great statesman long before yours
            or Microsoft's time.

            It was Patrick Henry, and he was expressing
            his opposition to the likes of just such as
            Microsoft (and you, if you stand with them):

            Ole Man
  • Um...

    The commercial Linux market isn't like the overall OS market; Red Hat has a large share, but not a monopoly controlling share. There are others who also have large shares, so standards may work better. The problem right now is that Novell's deal has done more to fragment the community than anything, and so I don't know if people are going to want them to lead some kind of "standardization of the platform". Besides, I suspect LSB 4.0 will be enough (more is in it than LSB 3.1).
    • Novell's deal has mostly just done harm to Novell

      I keep reading about important people leaving Novell (latest being Vice President for Americas Operations), and then there's this,1759,2161500,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03129TX1K0000616

      What a debacle.
      • Not Necessarily a correct analysis of the data

        Their analysis is based upon the assumption that the awareness of Alfresco is
        pervasive in the Linux space. I've used Linux for business purposes since the mid
        '90s and I've never heard of Alfresco. However, I replaced 5 Red Hat EL4 servers with
        Novell's offering just this year. Additionally, the fact tha Alfresco seems tuned for
        Red Hat's server solution would tend to skew the results towards Red Hat.

        The problem is that given 5 sets of numeric observations, 10 different analysts will
        give you 12 different results.
  • Wait a Minute!!!

    Isn't the LSB(Linux Standard Base)which already has most of the major vendors on board already addressing this???
  • Gee, ya think???

    We started this thing called the Linux Standard Base back in 1996 when Red Hat
    changed their model for Red Hat 5.0 by dropping Libc5 and going to a GLIBC base
    distribution. Because they weren't also including the libc5 library files, they broke
    compatibility with the fledgling Linux commercial market space in a very bad way.

    Back then, Linux International was just rolling out of the old "Linux Developer
    Fund" project, and this was one of the first big projects that we tried to undertake.
    However, when you have 3 commercial reps and 100 college kids who don't have
    1 day of real-world experience, the process quickly fell apart while they argued
    about which package manager and X11 version to include rather that focussing on
    things like libc definition and core utilities. Another interesting thing is that
    Ransom Love (Caldera Linux, originally a project of Novell) was right there with me
    as a driving force in the process.

    Step forward 11 years and NOW Mr. Hovsepian thinks that we need a
    standard...gee, ya think?