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Embedded Linux Consortium Manifesto (draft)

Feb 25, 2000 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Please Note: This is a draft, for discussion and comment. Please post your comments in the Embedded Linux Consortium topic area of the forum, or bring them to the ELC organizational meeting at ESC. Or you can email them to me if you prefer.

Embedded Linux Consortium Manifesto (Draft)

February 25, 2000


I was asked by several companies active in the emerging embedded Linux market to assist with forming a noncommercial embedded Linux trade association, possibly chairing the group initially. Accordingly, I used the resources of (news, articles, forum) to help move the process forward. At this point, we have received positive responses from a fairly long list of companies who have indicated their interest in participating in an Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC).

Some of the companies that have expressed interest, thus far, are: Red Hat, Lineo, MontaVista, Zentropix, Lynx Real-Time Systems, Motorola Computer Group, Motorola Semiconductors, IBM, Open Systems Publishing, M-Systems, RTCGroup, WinSystems, Cogent Computer Systems, Synergy Microsystems, OSK, VersaLogic, Transvirtual Technologies, Moreton Bay, ISDCorp, LinuxCare, Contemporary Controls, Cendio Systems, Ancor Communications, Accelent Systems, Komatsu Mining Systems, Real Time Devices, NewMonics, National Semiconductor, Coollogic, Centura, Infomatec AG, Troll Tech, and EMJ — plus a number of individual developers. (Note: please excuse me if I left anyone out of the above list; also, the order is fairly random but roughly that in which I was informed of your interest.)

Vision & Mission

A suggested vision for the organization is that of an Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC) that is “a nonprofit, vendor-neutral trade association whose goal is the advancement and promotion of embedded Linux throughout the embedded, applied, and appliance computing markets”. The members contribute their membership dues and efforts, in return for a growing market for all. The structure and function of the ELC might be along the lines of the 150+ member PC/104 Consortium (, except perhaps devoid of standards activities (to be determined!).

The mission might consist of two objectives:

  1. The first objective, which might be an automatic result of forming the ELC, would be “To quickly establish the market perception that, instead of there being two main options for embedded OSes (i.e. Microsoft and non-Microsoft), there are three: Microsoft, Linux, and 'other'.”
  2. Objective two, is to rearrange the ordering of objective #1; i.e.: “To make Linux the #1 OS choice for developers designing embedded systems.”
In short, by creating and supporting the Embedded Linux Consortium, we will be investing in building a growing “Embedded Linux” as the fundamental software technology of choice among embedded system developers. This, of course, will contribute to maximizing the growth in market demand for Linux, helping it to rapidly achieve its full potential within the enormous — and enormously diverse — embedded market.

One basic premise relative to the scope of activities of the ELC is this: the ELC should focus on doing things that individual companies CAN NOT DO on their own, and not attempt to accomplish things that companies CAN OR COULD DO. That is, if it can or could be done by an individual company, encourage that. Conversely, the ELC should focus on doing those things which companies acting on their own cannot do. So, for example, the ELC should use the money derived from membership dues to fund promotional programs that advance the benefits of using embedded Linux technology, in a vendor neutral manner.

Membership Categories and Dues

We need to initially raise $50,000 to $100,000 through “Charter Membership” dues, plus an additional $50,000 to $100,000 of additional memberships during remainder of the ELC's first year of operation. The initial funds will support a powerful launch of the organization, and will fund at least half a year of activities. We can achieve the necessary funds via 10 to 20 Charter Members joining at a Corporate Membership dues of $5000 each, an amount that seems to represent the consensus of phone, email, and forum dialogs and discussions.

For comparison purposes, the PC/104 Consortium (which has 150 members) has three levels of membership: Executive, at $2500 per year; Associate, at $1250; and Affiliate, at $650. In the PC/104 Consortium, members tend to join at the lowest or the highest level, based on whether they want to participate on the governing board or not. Hence, two corporate membership categories may be appropriate; perhaps $5000 for Executive Corporate Membership, and $1000 for General Corporate Sponsorship.

Because this is Linux, we must not forget the many individuals and organizations who contribute to the open source based that is the source of the Linux technology, itself. We must not ask the very people (or organizations) who are the very source of Linux and its related software to pay high (or perhaps any) membership, dues to participate in the activities of the ELC. Following email and forum discussions of this issue, I recommend that we have a “Developer/ORG Member” category that is both inexpensive and optional. How about: $150 per year “optional” membership dues for Developer/ORG Member category, including representation on the ELC board of directors (discussed below).

One more thing. To kick start the organization, let's designate the companies who fund the formation of the ELC, and join by a specified date (April 1, 2000?) at the highest level membership, as “Charter Members” — a status that they retain as long as they maintain uninterrupted highest level membership.

Use of Proceeds

Following launch, I suggest we establish a management contract with an outside management firm or individual (“Executive Director”, or “ED”) to establish the administrative aspects of the organization, and also hire a freelance PR person to do the initial publicity. It may be practical and desirable for a single individual or group do both (see proposal to be presented at ELC organizational meeting). We will also need to allocate funds for some legal expenses including incorporation.

Near term promotional projects that make sense are the development of a logo, formal vision/mission statements, a definitive “What is Embedded Linux” document, press releases, etc.

Board of Directors and Governance Model

Assuming we have the three categories of membership that were discussed above . . .

  • Executive Corporate Members: $5,000 per year
  • General Corporate Members: $1,000 per year
  • Developer/ORG Members: $150 per year (“optional”)
The board of directors could consist of 7 voting directors and a nonvoting chairman, chosen as follows . . .
  • 5 directors elected by (and from among) the Executive Corporate members
  • 1 director elected by (and from among) the General Corporate members
  • 1 director elected by (and from among) the Developer/ORG members
  • 1 nonvoting chairman elected by the board of directors
I suggest we implement an operational approach known as the “Carver Governance Model”. This was developed specifically for nonprofit organizations. According to this model, the board of directors is basically the custodian of the “asset” represented by the organization. The board has the responsibility to establish and periodically update the vision, mission, and a limited number of guidelines (mostly restrictions as to actions that are NOT permitted), and they hire an executive director to conduct the day-to-day activities of the organization. Budgets are approved by the board in a general manner, but the board doesn't actually tinker with the lower level activities. Those activities are carried out under the direction of the executive director, according to the vision, mission, and guidelines ratified by the board. The executive director establishes whatever task forces and projects are appropriate to meet those objectives.

The advantage of the Carver Governance Model is that it takes maximum advantage of the broad perspective that a board of directors can provide to an organization. The board looks at the “big picture” rather than getting bogged down in the intricate details of the organization's daily activities. Board members can, however, be participants in any of the task forces or committees that the organization may have.

Activity Threads

I think the activities of the ELC will be in two main threads: technical, and promotional. It's likely (though not required) that the developer/org members will be mostly focused on technical activities, whereas promotional/marketing activities will be more of a concern of the corporate members (and, appropriately, mostly funded by them).

On the promotional side, we'll likely have a marketing committee or task force that will be concerned with evangelizing embedded Linux. The subtasks will likely include: website, PR, tradeshows, collateral materials, membership growth, etc. The participants in these task forces will probably consist of marketing people from among the corporate members, though participation of all members will be welcome.

On the technical side, there may be technical committees or special-interest-groups, associated with specific efforts of interest to multiple members. Examples might be real-time APIs, industry-specific task forces, etc. These activities might serve more as “meeting places” to advance the (many) technologies associated with embedded Linux, rather than formal standardization efforts. This aspect of the consortium is more problematic than the marketing/promotional side, given the already decentralized nature of Linux and the infrastructure/processes that already exist to advance the software itself. However, we should be open to the possibilities that may occur from a hundred or so companies and individuals all associated with common purpose of growing the use of Linux in embedded applications. In general, the technical and promotional activities will be kept independent of each other. Therefore, the Embedded Linux Consortium will succeed whether or not any of its technical activities (if any) bear fruit.

Proposed Launch Process

Finally, I'd like to suggest a specific process for us to use in forming the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC) at the ELC organizational meeting to be held on March 1, 2000 at the Embedded Systems Conference in Chicago.

I propose that we immediately establish an “ELC Formation Committee” that will consist of all those present who carry a written commitment (from their companies) to join the ELC at a membership level of at least $5,000 per year. Once established, the ELC Formation Committee will serve as (or select) an acting board of directors for the group and will define the next steps of the formation of the ELC as a non-profit trade association. Those steps will presumably include choosing a temporary chairperson, authorizing a budget for the formation process, overseeing the process of incorporation, and establishing the initial membership and management structure. The Formation Committee will continue to serve as an acting board of directors until the incorporation is compete, whereupon there will be a formal election of the first year's board of directors and officers.

Draft Agenda
Organizational Meeting of the Embedded Linux Consortium
March 1, 2000
    12:00-12:15 — Introductions

    12:15-12:30 — Overview & comments

    12:30-12:45 — Presentation/discussion on mission, formation process, and near term objectives

    12:45-1:30 — ELC Formation Committee meeting

    • Call to order
    • Roll call
    • Elect temporary officers
    • Define and approve Founding Process
    • Define and approve budget for Founding Process
    • Other issues/discussion
    • Future meeting schedule
    • Adjourn

For your reference, here are the time and location details of the meeting:

    Date: March 1, 2000

    Time: 12:00-1:30 pm


      Hyatt Regency McCormick Place
      2233 S. Martin Luther King Dr.
      Chicago IL 60616
      Main hotel phone: 312-528-6057
      (This is the hotel adjacent to the ESC conference location.)

    Meeting room: Regency Ball Room – Second Floor

    Telephone conference: None (we decided not to attempt it)

    Lunch: A light lunch is being provided, courtesy of Lynx Real-Time Systems (thank you!).

    Reminder: Space is limited, so we must restrict attendance to a maximum of 2 representatives per company.

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