Consortium to push Debian to the fore

The Linux Core Consortium may be sidelined as one of its core members focuses all its resources on a new consortium

A number of companies are working together to promote the commercial use of the Debian Linux distribution, in a consortium that is due to be announced at LinuxWorld in California next month.

Ian Murdock, founder of Debian and also the chairman of Linux provider Progeny — one of the founding members of this consortium — said on Monday that around 10 or 12 organisations have already joined the Debian Core Consortium (DCC) and at least half as many again are interested in joining. The companies that have joined include Linux vendors Linspire, Xandros, Sun Wah Linux, and Linux services company Credativ.

The consortium plans to raise the profile of Debian, Murdock said. "At the moment, Red Hat and Novell get the lion's share of attention. With [the DCC], we'll see Debian rise from below the radar to its rightful place as the third global Linux distribution."

Debian is already one of the top Linux distributions worldwide, alongside Red Hat and SuSE. For example, it was rated the second-most popular Linux distribution being used on Web servers by a Netcraft survey in March.

The DCC has a number of goals to improve the commercial viability of Debian, including improving compatibility between Debian derivatives, making the Debian release cycle more predictable and creating a core version of Debian that is compliant with the Linux Standards Base (LSB).

Several Linux distributions such as Red Hat, SuSE and Mandriva use a product called the RPM Package Manager to handle the installation, uninstallation, updating and querying of software.

Because these distributions have evolved separately, users can suffer compatibility problems if they install a software package that was designed to run on a particular Linux distribution.

Murdock said DCC will need to work hard to make sure this doesn't happen with Debian and its derivatives.

"We want to make sure Debian doesn't split into incompatible distros — we're trying to avoid the divergence and fragmentation that happened in the RPM world."

Progeny was one of the driving forces behind an earlier effort to create a core version of Linux based on LSB. Brazilian vendor Conectiva, French vendor Mandrakesoft, Asian vendor Turbolinux and Progeny joined forces in November last year to create the Linux Core Consortium (LCC), which planned to create a core version of Linux, which each company would base their enterprise products on.

But less than a year later, Progeny is focusing its attention on DCC, as it thinks this is more likely to be a success.

"We [Progeny] will be putting all our resources behind DCC," said Murdock. "I think the DCC has a much greater chance of achieving its goals [than LCC]."

"Does the world need another RPM distro? The two market-leading distros — Red Hat and SuSE are RPM based. The third global distro — Debian — is not RPM-based. If you're looking for a common core that's open, does it make sense to start with a common core that already exists, as is planned with DCC; or to create a third RPM distro that no-one is using, as was planned with LCC?"

Murdock hopes Mandriva, the newly-named company that was formed by the merger of Conectiva and Mandrakesoft, will join the DCC as this new consortium "obviates the need for LCC". "I think it would make sense for Mandriva to move to the Debian Core Consortium," said Murdock.

But Mandriva will not be joining the DCC, as its distribution is based on RPM, according to François Bançilhon, the chief executive of Mandriva. "There is no current plan to join a Debian consortium, since we're RPM based," said Bançilhon.

He said that Progeny had not discussed its plans to pull away from the LCC with Mandriva. "I haven't talked to him in a while — it's news to me," said Bançilhon.