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The ELC is dead; long live the OSDL

Sep 9, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

The Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC) filed dissolution papers with the state of California yesterday, ending a five year run promoting embedded Linux and developing standards for it. The ELC's primary piece of intellectual property — the ELC Platform Specification — has been transferred to the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs), which could… move the standard forward, given sufficient member interest.

The ELC kicked off in March of 2000, at the Embedded Systems Conference in Chicago, where according to Murry Shohat, cofounder and executive director, 85 industry executives and managers “formed a loud and vocal chorus of people who wanted traction for Linux. We left that building with a strong mission to promote and publicize Linux as an embedded operating system.”

Shohat maintains that the ELC has been more than successful in promoting embedded Linux — today, Linux is the most-embedded OS in the world, by many analyst accounts.

With Linux's profile rising in the embedded market, the ELC faced pressure to turn its attention to creating embedded Linux standards.

Shohat recounts how the ELC got the ELC Platform Specification (ELCPS) effort underway by renting a hall at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco, and assembling 200 people for a six-hour meeting featuring speakers such as Jon “Maddog” Hall. Shohat proudly describes the event as “one of the finest things I've ever done in my career,” adding that enough momentum gathered to release the Platform Specification within a year. “In standards, nothing happens in a year!” he notes.

Shohat describes the Platform Specification as a set of documents that “mainly describes how people can make the most of existing standards, such as POSIX, in embedded Linux systems.”

After its initial release, the Platform Specification was never updated, despite no lack of project goals. “The standards process foundered,” Shohat admits. “I have always felt it was a victim of the recession that descended in 2003. There were pregnant areas to be explored, and we prepared a short list of next engineering tasks, such as improved power management, and a GUI. But we were never able to pull together the resources to get it done.”

Reports of stagnancy and strife within the organization surfaced as early as 2002, and the organization subsequently fell from a membership of 165 companies to just seven listed on the Consortium's website at last count.

What's next for the Platform Spec?

Shohat believes the Platform Specification has continued relevancy, and that the OSDL has the potential to serve the embedded Linux industry very well in its stewardship of the standard. “The ELCPS is very relevant. There is no content in it that ages poorly,” Shohat said. “The OSDL has created a more powerful forum, with a more global reach, in which the volunteer spirit of standards development will find a ready home.”

The OSDL has already demonstrated highly effective leadership in one key area of embedded — telecommunications — where the OSDL's Carrier Grade Linux working group continues to promote and improve Linux as a telecom OS.

However, Shohat notes, the OSDL is a very organic organization steered entirely by voluntary contributions from its constituents, meaning that the ultimate fate of the Platform Specification will depend on the interest of OSDL members. “[OSDL CEO] Stuart Cohen is nothing if not a compleate businessman. And that's a valid approach in the world of standards — you've got to pay to play.”

Another organization — the Consumer Electronics Linux Forum — emerged in 2003 with backing from most of the world's largest consumer electronics companies (Matsushita, Sony, Hitachi, NEC, Royal Philips, Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba). CELF maintains a number of patches to Linux aimed at improving power management, boot time, and other qualities desirable in consumer devices.

IBM's program director of Websphere standards, Dan Bandera, who also served as ELC Vice Chairperson, could not be reached for comment about IBM's interest in working with the OSDL to further the ELCPS.

ELC Chairman (and CEO of LynuxWorks) Inder Singh said, “Our first mission — gaining traction for Linux as an embedded operating system — has been achieved. The market's need for a Linux focal point is already being served by OSDL. It's a win for everyone.”

Other ELC accomplishments

Additional ELC accomplishments include:

Memory lane

The ELC was essentially born on, whose founder and editor served as the Consortium's interim chairman during the group's formation phase. For an interesting trip down memory lane, read the early proposal, draft manifesto, and early retrospective on the ELC's formation.

Additionally, these stories trace many key milestones in the ELC's history (in reverse chronological order):

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