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Linux Foundation Joins Ranks of International Standards Submitters

By Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider ECT News Network
May 19, 2020 12:33 PM PT
the linux foundation has gained important status as an international open standards submitter

The Linux Foundation has achieved a major milestone: formal status on the international standards front.

Its Joint Development Foundation (JDF) received approval as an ISO/IEC JTC 1 Publicly Available Specification (PAS) Submitter, LF announced last week. This status gives JDF's standards development projects a path to international standardization.

The submitter status designation benefits the global business and technical ecosystem by enabling accelerated adoption of open standards and specifications. It represents opportunities for Linux Foundation projects to achieve international standards adoption for the world's most important and emerging technologies.

This action underscores LF's increasing commitment to open standards. The foundation long has been viewed as an organization focused on open source code.

The designation is very significant in terms of expanding LF's reach in the software industry beyond open source technology in isolation. The PAS submissions are for publicly available specifications, not open source software, noted Seth Newberry, executive director of the JDF.

"In fact, JDF specifications do not have to have any open source implementation," he told LinuxInsider.

The Standards Process at Work

ISO and IEC develop and promote international standards that touch almost all aspects of daily life. ISO and IEC joined together to create ISO/IEC JTC 1, which is the international group dedicated to developing worldwide Information and Technology (ICT) standards.

JTC 1 has been responsible for many important IT standards -- including video compression technology and programming languages, among many others. PAS submitters like JDF play an important role establishing international standards by submitting their specifications to JTC 1 for a vote to adopt them as ISO/IEC JTC 1 international standards, Newberry explained.

The Linux Foundation, home to JDF, is experienced in this process; it previously submitted the Linux Standard Base for adoption as ISO/IEC 23360-1:2006.

"The best standards are open standards, and this is a positive push towards the development of standards that start open and stay open," said Thomas Hatch, CTO of SaltStack.

"While this does give The Linux Foundation bragging rights, it also gives them legal channels that can speed up standard development, and that is a great thing," he told LinuxInsider.

Beyond Open Source

The PAS submission has no direct relationship to the Linux kernel, or to any open source software project for that matter. JDF's approval as a PAS submitter is not a path for open source code to be submitted directly to ISO/IEC, noted Newberry.

However, as open source code becomes more common in the industry, open source implementations of that code create the need for standards around the implementations. That allows developers to implement products around that code in a fashion that ensures interoperability and consistency.

Code writers and the programming industry in general can be impacted by bringing the LF and JDF into the process. In a lot of cases, an open source project is all code writers need. As that open source code base becomes one component of a more complex product stack, specifications can provide clarity on the requirements for common use cases, Newberry explained.

"Specifications often become a blueprint that coders not involved in the open source project can implement in their own software," he said. "There are a number of interoperability, conformance and other business requirements that can benefit from having a publicly available specification that an open source software project implements."

The work that JDF does in conjunction with the Linux Foundation simply adds tools, community and expertise for groups building specifications. In the right cases, that allows wider distribution and adoption of the code created in the Linux Foundation communities.

"It is an evolutionary step in the LF ecosystem that we hope will help improve the adoption of the work of the LF projects," Newberry observed.

Added Benefits

The Linux Foundation was born from the combination of code and standards with the Linux kernel (code) and the Linux Standard Base (LSB). The PAS submitter status has nothing specific to do with getting international standards approval for the Linux kernel.

Rather, its commitment continues to this day and is why the LF acquired the Joint Development Foundation. That affiliation simplifies the process of creating new technical specification collaboration efforts, accord to the LF.

"Using a standard typically results in lower risk that the path you have taken will be a dead end," noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"So it is potentially very significant, but that significance can be mitigated if any competing standards are more attractive," he told LinuxInsider.

The LF's involvement is significant in two other ways, Enderle said. One, it may drive more interest in working toward standards. Two, it will raise the visibility of the standards approach as a way to get stronger customer interest and better customer satisfaction scores for efforts that result in a standard.

Open source is highly distributed and comes with many goals. Most day-to-day tasks of open source development will not be impacted, but the LF's submitter status gives teams and consortiums a new channel to use to create consortiums, suggested Hatch.

"Open Source development growth has given us an explosive level of innovation over the last decade. As we continue to open doors for new ways to innovate with open source we will continue to see more and more innovation. This has the potential to drive more innovation from developers," he said.

JDF Tackles First Submission

JDF projects now have a clear path from open source project or specification to an internationally recognized standard. The OpenChain specification is JDF's first standard to be submitted.

The OpenChain standard is a specification that identifies the key requirements of an open source compliance program. It is designed to build trust between companies in the supply chain while reducing internal resource costs.

The outcome is increased trust and consistency in open source software across the supply chain. International standardization will help to guide the evolution of the OpenChain Specification from de facto to de jure standard, a process that will assist procurement, sales and other departments to engage with OpenChain-related activities, according to Newberry.

Open source is now a mainstream means of building infrastructure and providing a platform for innovation. While open source development models focus on lowering the barriers to innovate and change, there comes a time when industries decide the next step is to agree on one approach to an issue and work together on that solution, he observed.

"This is a key additional capability," said Newberry, "to further support our open project communities with a path to engage on standards with the worldwide business and industry ecosystems."


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software. Email Jack.


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