Novell CEO: Apps Are Job No. 1 for Linux
In order for Linux to grow into the computing mainstream, the open-source OS needs more applications and a standardized approach to software certification, Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said in his keynote Wednesday at the LinuxWorld conference and trade show in San Francisco.
"The No. 1 thing that we need on Linux is applications," he said. "Whether we like it or not, the application is what drives the final customer decision," he added.
He said that Linux will have trouble growing quickly enough as long as independent software vendors (ISVs) need to customize applications for all the distributions out there. "If you look at Windows, their application availability is far and away their biggest advantage," he said. "ISVs go to Microsoft and they know there is one platform."
Linux, by comparison, is distributed by many vendors in many flavors. "Our current process on certifying our ISVs is really an individual distribution by distribution." Hovsepian called for the Linux community to address fragmentation by standardizing at the application programming interface (API) level and by standardizing ISV certification.
Linux's Biggest Challenge
"Today I am asking the open-source vendor community to support a vendor-neutral effort to standardize ISV certifications," he said. "The ISVs would be able to certify an application and seamlessly port it across Linux distributions."
Just how would the standardization be developed? "We need to leverage the bodies that exist already," Hovsepian said. "We don't need to create new ones, but we need to take advantage of what the Linux Standard Base has already created."
Applications "are and have been one of the biggest challenges for Linux," said Al Gillen, research vice president of system software for IDC. To grow the operating system, the Linux community must "lower the bar of complexity" for ISVs, he said.
Because of the burden of supporting numerous distributions, the average ISV releases software on only three or four distributions, Gillen explained. "The goal is to have ISVs have access to all the distributions," he said, noting that doing so will mean "complete agreement on a minimum set of APIs."
Back in the 1990s, the Unix community attempted to unify APIs with limited results, he noted. But the "odds are good" for success this go-round. "It's not just Novell," he added. "There are other advocates for standardization of the API set," such as the Linux Foundation.
'Truly Not There Yet'
Applications is just one of several areas where Linux needs to progress, Hovsepian warned attendees, noting that virtualization and data center management are key. "I'm here to tell you we're not there yet. We're truly not there yet," Hovsepian said. "And I don't want you to fall asleep at this point in time."
Linux should take advantage of the virtualization support chipmakers are embedding in their products, he said. Intel's Xeon server chips and AMD's Opteron processors include virtualization technologies that "are going to be critical in the market and they're going to push the use of virtualization," he said.
In addition to talking about what Linux must do to move into the mainstream, Hovsepian commented on Novell's controversial interoperability deal with Microsoft. Under that arrangement, Microsoft promised not to sue Novell customers for infringing any Microsoft patents that Linux might violate. The latest version of SUSE includes the GPLv3 license, which forbids just that sort of patent deal.
Last month, Microsoft said it is not bound by GPLv3. But Hovsepian said there is no problem. "We will give [customers] the most current release we are shipping to the market -- including GPLv3 code. In its simplest form, it is a coupon that customers redeem and we'll deliver to them the latest distro on the shelf at that time," he said.