LINUXWORLD: Open-source lab targets telecom market

An industry working group has been formed to create standards aimed at pushing Linux into the specialised world of telecommunications carrier-grade servers.

Such servers must meet specific standards regarding electromagnetic interference, electrostatic discharge, corrosion, grounding and seismic durability.

In a news conference here at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, the nonprofit Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) said the carrier-grade Linux working group hopes to draft the specifications by March, with the first compliant projects available from independent software vendors by end of the year.

Also announced was the creation of a second working group that will be charged with enabling Linux development for wider use in corporate data centers. That group will be created later this year, said Tim Witham, director of the Portland, Ore.-based OSDL.

"We wanted to get one running, and now we will do the other," Witham said.

The moves come as Linux continues to mature and gain acceptance among industry giants including IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer.

Ari Virtanen, vice president of Nokia Networks, said the opportunities for Linux in the carrier-grade server market are real because it allows next-generation and multimedia communications services to be economically created on open-standard platforms. By using open-source software and development on standard architectures, costs and time to market will be reduced, he said.

Virtanen said the scheduled time frame for the project "is a tough target," but the group is "well on track and feels confident this will be done."

The working group will initially include OSDL members such as telecommunications equipment maker Paris-based Alcatel SA; Cisco Systems Inc.; HP; IBM; Intel Corp.; Sunnyvale, Calif.-based MontaVista Software; Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Corp.; Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc.; and Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE Linux AG. It plans to work within the open-source community to create specifications and requirements for carrier-grade Linux needs.

The development work of both working groups will be done under the General Public License (GPL) used for many open-source projects.

Among the main goals of the working group are the creation of standards for commercial software for the carrier-grade market and a continuing push for consistency between the various distributions of Linux from different vendors.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said that while the creation of working groups is noble, much of their success will depend on the cooperation of open-source Linux developers who are integrally involved in the kernel development process. A major factor in whether this will fly, she said, is whether the group can garner interest and support from Linus Torvalds, who invented Linux in 1991.

"They need calls to the kernel, and they have to have Linus" to gain recognition and credibility, Quandt said. "I don't know if Linus has carrier-grade Linux and data center Linux on his agenda."

Another challenge, she said, is the 2002 timetable set for the carrier-grade working group. "It's a very aggressive timeframe," she said.

The OSDL was created in August 2000 as a vendor-neutral, nonprofit laboratory where open-source developers could send their work to be run on the latest hardware. Other OSDL member companies include Dell Computer, Caldera International, NEC and VA Software.