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Debian Core Consortium takes 2 steps backward, 7 steps forward
Jul. 12, 2005

Progeny and more than half a dozen other Debian Linux distributors are working toward forming a common Debian Linux distribution for the enterprise based on the next version of Progeny's Componentized Linux.

This is not a done deal yet. Two companies previously mentioned as being involved with the project, Mandriva (formerly Mandrakesoft) and Turbolinux Inc., appear to not be participating at this time. Progeny Linux Systems Inc. continues to lead the way.

The other companies involved in the possible forming of a DCC (Debian Core Consortium) include Linspire, credativ GmbH (site in German), LinEx (site in Spanish), Sun Wah Linux Ltd., Xandros Inc. and several other Debian companies and nonprofit/community projects.

"Essentially, you can imagine that any organization that's interested in making Debian more viable for the enterprise is or is invited to be a part of this," said Ian Murdock, founder of both Progeny and the Debian distribution, as well as CEO of Progeny.

"As to what this means for LCC [the Linux Core Consortium], that really depends on Mandriva and Turbolinux. The market has spoken, and we're 100 percent focused on this new Debian-centric core now. If Mandriva and Turbolinux want to move to this Debian core, we'd love to have them. I can't speak for them."

Mandriva, after considering the matter, will not be joining the DCC.

"Mandriva doesn't plan to release a Linux distribution based on Debian," said GaŽl Duval, Mandriva's co-founder and vice president of communications.

Turbolinux has not responded to requests for its stance on the efforts to create a Debian enterprise Linux distribution.

"There are two separate but potentially related things" going on, Murdock said. "One, we are talking with Debian companies and nonprofits about adopting a common core to make Debian more viable in the enterprise; and two, Progeny will be announcing the next version of Componentized Linux at LinuxWorld."

"Whether or not these two initiatives are linked -- that is, whether Componentized Linux is the common core the Debian groups adopt -- remains to be seen as the former discussions progress," Murdock said.

"Conceptually, I support this idea a great deal, and am working with Ian and the others on more details," said Kevin Carmony, president and CEO of Linspire.

A spokesperson for Xandros said, "Xandros is actively working with Progeny on the Debian Core Consortium."

"The timing on this is very good as Linspire readies to release Linspire Professional later this year, our business version of Linspire with remote desktop management via CNR [click and run]," Carmony said.

"[Linspire Professional] is being used by a couple of very large enterprises now, so we're excited to introduce it later this year. One of the concerns enterprises will have in moving to Linux will be future, ongoing support and interoperability, so something like the DCC could be very helpful in giving them that comfort," he said.

"On the technical points, Componentized Linux 3.0 is a well-defined subset of Debian Sarge that is specifically designed to serve as a core for Debian-derived distros that wish to base on standard Debian, i.e., Debian Sarge," Murdock said.

"It's well-defined in the sense that it will give Debian derivatives a common, compatible starting point, and that it will provide ISVs and IHVs with a clear, Debian-based platform to support that will allow them to run on a well-defined notion of Debian as well as all of the derivatives that are based on it with a single port," Murdock said.

The DCC, however, is not an attempt to create a new version, or upgraded version, of Debian.

Unlike other efforts to build a well-defined notion of Debian, most notably Ubuntu, this effort is very Debian-centric -- we're not trying to replace Debian with something else, said Murdock.

"We're also doing this in a community-centric way," Murdock said.

"For example, we're working closely with the LSB [Linux Standard Base], and any certification program that grows out of this will be LSB-centric."

So, "you won't certify to Progeny, you'll certify to LSB -- we see ourselves as simply delivering an implementation of the LSB that will be 100 percent Debian and that will be at the core of as many Debian-based distros as possible," Murdock said.

Looking at the business side of the matter, Murdock is "confident the story will be very attractive, because if you look at the installed base of Debian plus all the Debian derivatives, that represents a huge market worldwide."

"We undoubtedly dwarf Novell/SuSE in terms of volume, and for ISVs and IHVs, it's all about volume," Murdock said.

Some analysts think he makes a good point.

"It appears that vendors are willing to support three Linux distributions: Red Hat, SuSE and one other, depending upon the region and their customer base. Debian is often the third one supported," Dan Kusnetzky, program vice president for system software at IDC, said in an interview last week.

"The question has never been whether Debian has the volume. It's always been, what does it mean to support Debian when there's so many different notions of what Debian is," Murdock said.

The DCC is meant to address that problem once and for all for enterprise customers.

Componentized Linux also will include compatibility with Red Hat Inc.'s Linux distributions and LSB 3.0 certification.

"In the LinuxWorld timeframe [early August], we'll be announcing LSB 3.0 certification. RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] and RPM [Red Hat Package Management] compatibility are definitely part of the roadmap, though in terms of what will be delivered at LinuxWorld, we'll only be delivering the beginnings of this compatibility; it's a big job. I can say that RHEL and RPM compatibility plays a very important part of the overall story."

Essentially, you can think of this as a continuation of the LCC vision, with Debian Sarge at the core rather than a new, RPM-based core," Murdock said.

If the goal of the LCC is to get a common core into as many distros as possible, and the majority of distros these days are Debian-based, we absolutely had to figure out a way to do it, Murdock said.

"One thing that's become very clear over the past couple of months as we've been trying to make this happen [in the LCC] is that the world doesn't really want yet another RPM-based distro. So, building one and then making Debian a second-class citizen simply wasn't going to cut it."

As for Progeny's plans, regardless of the fate of the LCC and the DCC, "we continue to support RPM in addition to Debian, so we will continue to have a supported RPM platform going forward in addition to this new Debian initiative."

Murdock also said he's not ruling out Progeny working with Red Hat or Novell Inc.

"We can work with Red Hat or Novell to bring a componentized version of their RPM distro to market in partnership with them. We're listening to the market and will decide accordingly."

If you found this article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols informative, be sure to check out's Linux & Open Source Center for the latest open-source news, reviews, and analysis.

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