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Executive Interview: Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL

Apr 26, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

In this interview, Stuart Cohen, CEO of the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs), discusses the OSDL's goals, initiatives, projects, and test facilities, and how the growing prominence of embedded Linux interfaces with the organization's goal of being the “center-of-gravity” for Linux. Enjoy . . . !

Q1. Very briefly, what is the mission and vision of the OSDL. What are its main goals?

A1. The mission of OSDL is to accelerate the adoption of Linux in the enterprise. OSDL's collective vision, that is the collective vision of our members, is to see Linux continue to meet real business challenges, lowering total cost of ownership and providing customized, flexible solutions to businesses around the globe and across industries.

As the “center of gravity” for Linux, OSDL is combining energy, resources and information from diverse groups to accomplish this mission and to realize this vision.

The overall Linux marketplace is expected to reach $35.7 billion by 2008, up from roughly $14 billion in 2004, according to IDC [Story]. Through the insight, influence, and direct technical investment of OSDL members and staff, the Lab helps to drive advances and awareness in four primary areas: the Linux and Open Source marketplace; emerging business trends and customer requirements; Linux technology, with a focus on testing and hardening the kernel and other key components; and education and awareness regarding legal issues around Linux and Open Source software, including copyrights, licenses, and patents.

Q2. What working groups does the OSDL currently have, what standards do you support, and what groups, standards, and initiatives are planned?

A2. Currently, OSDL is home to three working groups (or initiatives). These are Data Center Linux (DCL), Desk Top Linux (DTL), and Carrier Grade Linux (CGL). OSDL initiates new groups based on member interest. We may pursue other initiatives in the future. It depends on our members.

Working groups produce and release requirements specifications on a periodic basis. For example, CGL released the CGL 3.0 Requirements Specification in February of this year, which focused on functional requirements for Linux in the telecommunications industry in six major areas – availability, serviceability, performance, clusters, standards and hardware [Story]. In addition, these documents specify compliance requirements to standards such as the Linux Standards Base (LSB) and POSIX.

Q3. OSDL has been a major player in one area of Embedded Linux, namely Carrier Grade Linux. Given the projected 2006 proliferation of Linux at the other end of the “virtual wire” — mobile phones [Story] — does the OSDL plan to get involved in additional embedded standards, such as small footprint requirements, fast bootup, power management, real-time extensions, and other embedded subset/superset APIs? Or will it leave those considerations to CELF, the ELC, the Open Group, Khronos Group, and others?

A3. Given the level of current and projected activity around Linux-based wireless handsets and other mobile applications, you can imagine that OSDL members have a strategic interest in these applications and the ecosystems that support them. Our members direct initiatives at OSDL. We'll keep you posted on any future programs we might undertake in this area.

Q4. Given OSDL's strategy of being the “Center of Gravity” for Linux, and thus acting as a counterpoise to Microsoft, and in light of the fact that Microsoft has a broad “devices to desktops” approach to firmware, middleware, and software (as do SuSE/Novell, Red Hat, and Wind River), how does the OSDL rate the importance of the use of Linux in devices, and what is the significance of this to future OSDL initiatives?

A4. Intelligent device manufacturers are increasingly adopting Linux as a strategic platform, often one that crosses product lines and markets. Linux enables telecommunications equipment manufacturers (TEMs), network equipment providers (NEPs), and also service providers to develop and deploy devices at a lower cost while meeting current and next-generation reliability, security, and performance requirements.

As such, OSDL Carrier Grade Linux and also Data Center and Desktop Linux efforts are significant in multiple ways: first, because CGL-based infrastructure enables the build-out to support these devices; second, because successful deployment in rigorous “five nines” lends confidence to all types of embedded development and deployment; and third, because much development targeted at CGL, DCL, and DTL also benefits other embedded applications. Moreover, OSDL support for core Linux development and testing (, STP, PLM, OpenPOSIX, etc.) benefits all types of Linux applications.

Q5. What's on the horizon for Carrier Grade Linux?

A5. The progress being made by Carrier Grade Linux is measurable along three lines. First, the initiative just released version 3.0 of the CGL Requirements Specification. This version is a “technology release” intended to give CGL distribution and platform providers the opportunity to comment and take stock of the direction of CGL with a goal of shipping CGL 3.0-registered platforms in 2006. Second, there are now eight distribution and platform suppliers shipping Carrier Grade Linux implementations; these suppliers include HP/Debian, Mandriva, MontaVista Software, Red Hat, SuSE, TimeSys, TurboLinux, and soon Wind River. Third, these suppliers serve a rapidly expanding client base of TEMs and NEPs, and indirectly carriers, who are deploying dozens of CGL-based designs in the global build-out of converged voice and data.

So, the short-term future bodes well for accelerating adoption of CGL from suppliers out through worldwide deployment. OSDL members from both equipment suppliers and from their customers, the carriers, indicate that CGL is more than “good enough” to serve their platform requirements for coming generations of systems.

Q6: What market opportunities do you see for Linux in the embedded devices and systems market?

A6. Linux has become a significant embedded OS platform for next-generation 32- and 64-bit designs because of efforts from OSDL members such as MontaVista Software, TimeSys, LynuxWorks, Metrowerks, Wind River, and from a range of community efforts. PalmSource recently placed a huge bet on Linux as its future.

To date, the greatest successes of the Open Source OS in embedded have been in networking, telecommunications, mobile telephony, and home entertainment. As Linux increasingly accrues more attributes of traditional embedded software platforms, the technical reach of Linux will continue to grow to address new applications in aerospace and defense, control and instrumentation, and medical applications.

Equally important in Linux adoption is the changing nature of the “embedded” category. As devices become increasingly intelligent, highly connected, and also more and more Open, embedded developers turn to Linux and Open Source not just as another software component, but as a strategic choice of technology, methodology, and business practice.

Q7. Who is using the Scalable Test Platform, and what are they using it for? What architectures does it support? Are there any hardware platforms available that might interest embedded developers, who often make kernel modifications?

A7. The Scalable Test Platform is an open source software project that is available to everyone at no cost through OSDL and has been used to run automated tests against new releases of Linux kernels. Over the years, other projects have found this useful. For example, PostgreSQL developers, through the support of OSDL, have been using STP to test the latest features in their relational database.

OSDL systems using the Scalable Test Platform consist of IA-32 systems with varying numbers of processors and varying memory configurations. At this time, no additional platforms are supported. OSDL also has a complementary tool called the Patch Lifecycle Manager, which produces cross compile results of Linux kernels. Results are produced for Embedded Compile (ARM), Power PC, Alpha, IA-32, IA-64, x86_64, and SPARC.

Q7. Does the OSDL have any plans to create automated kernel build environments on diverse architectures, similar to SimTec's KAutoBuild for ARM?

A7. OSDL recently added ARM compilation to its test bed, and will increase the horizontal convergence of its testing efforts, CPU-wise, in response to member and community input.

Q8. How are the OSDL's and Beaverton's efforts going to promote Beaverton as a center for Linux? Can you say a little about the Open Technology Center? Also, about other Linux companies in the Beaverton area?

A8. Beaverton and the greater Portland area have become home to many open technology projects, including the open source movement's model project, Linux.

With a concentration of IBM, HP, Intel and Oracle's Linux development teams in Oregon, and with the leadership that exists here, including Linus Torvalds, who relocated to Oregon in 2003, it became clear that an open technology center based in Beaverton could well serve the needs of open technology start-ups.

The Open Technology Business Center brings talent, ideas, and capital together to support the founding and growth of open technology businesses. Linux is one of the most successful models of open technology, so OSDL's support is natural.

Q9. Can you share one of your organizations most exciting successes? How about a failure?

A9. I believe that in science and technology, there are no failures — just new realizations that lead to innovation.

This is why OSDL continuously meets with Linux users around the world via Linux User Advisory Councils (LUACs). Through LUACs and other forums, OSDL collects information on current business trends and enterprise Linux requirements, and how they vary in different regional markets. This information is conveyed directly to the Lab's working groups. This process enables successes for large, medium, and small businesses that are vested in Linux.

Of course, the OSDL CGL working group is the most obvious success story. As of February 2005, there were 24 companies producing products based on CGL — eight Linux distributions and 16 of the industry's leading telecommunications equipment manufacturers and network equipment providers.

Q10. Where will Linux be in five years? What will the OSDL be working on at that time?

A10. According to IDC, the Linux market will exceed $35 billion by 2008 – that's just three short years away. To say that Linux will be ubiquitous in five years is to state the obvious. Less obvious is the trend toward Open Source software competing further and further “up the stack.” That is, projects and companies are increasingly building, commercializing, and deploying Open Source middleware and applications on Open Source platforms as well as proprietary ones such as Windows. In five years, Open Source, as a development and distribution methodology, and as a driver of new business models, will no longer be perceived as novel or risky.

Q11. What are the biggest risks to Linux and its proliferation?

A11. We don't see any major risks to Linux proliferation and adoption. It's happening. Linux is no longer a niche phenomenon. OSDL is in a position to help businesses understand the low risk and high yield benefits Linux can deliver in the enterprise.

About Stuart Cohen — Stuart Cohen is a seasoned technology industry executive who consistently focuses on sustainable, profitable growth and market leadership. With more than 22 years of international sales and marketing experience, Stuart most recently served as vice president and corporate officer at RadiSys Corporation, where his responsibilities included strategic partnership development with other industry leaders, including IBM, HP, and Dell. Prior to RadiSys, Stuart was vice president of worldwide marketing and a corporate officer at InFocus Corporation. Stuart spent 17 years with IBM, where he held senior positions in the US sales & marketing division, and the IBM Personal Computer Company and Networking Division, with international business development responsibilities in Europe, Southeast Asia, and China. Stuart holds a B.S. in Quantitative Business Analysis from Arizona State University.

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