EOF - The Open Source Development Lab

What does OSDL do, besides hire Linus Torvalds?

You can tell a technology finally has made it into the general consciousness when it's the cover story in a major business magazine. With all the recent media attention on Linux, it would be easy to assume that the awareness battle has been won and now, finally, things are going to get easier. But those of us on the front lines of business computing know the real heavy lifting has only started. The penguin has been a symbol of promise and fundamental change in software development for some time, but now is the time for it to really prove itself.

The fact that the broader business community is starting to take Linux seriously is a good thing: more consideration will be given to Linux, and more development energy within organizations will be devoted to Linux applications. But with all of this new attention—sometimes by people and organizations having little experience with the Open Source community and its workings—comes a certain degree of uncertainty. And if there's anything corporate IT departments don't like, it's uncertainty—especially when it comes to business-critical applications. As Linux makes its move from edge-of-the-network to the data center, Linux applications will be under heavier stress and flaws will be highly visible.

Despite its pervasiveness as a Web server platform and its maturity, thanks to a vibrant and committed development community, Linux still has to prove itself as a true enterprise platform. IT management needs to know that security, scalability and availability all are on par with proprietary systems. Application developers, both independents and those who work in corporate IT departments, need access to test equipment that replicates a corporate data center to validate their code and make the proper modifications. Enter the Open Source Development Laboratory (OSDL).

Created as a nonprofit corporation by a consortium of technology companies in August 2000, OSDL is dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux in corporate computing. The Lab is a place where kernel and middleware code can be stress-tested and hardened to support enterprise Linux applications. In addition to facilitating application projects, we also are actively involved in Linux kernel and middleware development. Recently, OSDL has contributed to the development of a new device module for Linux 2.5, as well as accomplished significant work on stability enhancements.

OSDL was created to give open-source developers access to data center-like equipment to test their applications and receive technical as well as moral support. Although OSDL's charter has expanded over the past year, the core of its original mission remains: provide open-source developers with resources and guidance to build data center and telco class enhancements into Linux and its open-source software stack.

OSDL offers three unique programs focused on developers and designed to accelerate the growth and adoption of Linux in the enterprise:

  1. A fully configured data center environment for Linux development and testing, available for qualified projects around the world.

  2. Creation of enterprise-class development tools and performance test suites for corporations, ISVs and other Linux developers.

  3. Hosting and coordination of global initiatives that define requirements and harden Linux to meet reliability, availability and performance requirements for telecommunication and data center environments.

Since its creation, OSDL has supported more than 200 Linux projects ranging from Apache to virtual memory improvements. The Lab's test suite includes x86 and Itanium systems up to 32-way setups. Lab resources are available to new or existing Linux projects.

Our development tools include an automated scalable test platform (STP) for Linux that provides a repeatable set of tests to verify how well patches and enhancements perform in enterprise computing environments. We also provide a patch life-cycle manager (PLM) to verify that patches compile on the Linux kernel prior to STP testing. We want to help corporate users better understand what open-source software can do for their businesses, as well as how they can become active participants in the community. As you can see, we have our work cut out for us. But, so do you. I encourage you to visit the Lab at www.osdl.org and see what we're up to. Perhaps you can help us.

Stuart Cohen is CEO of the Open Source Development Lab.

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