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Linux lab upgrades software for telecoms

The Open Source Development Labs adds new reliability, security and other requirements to a specification that's designed to make Linux better for telecommunications companies' servers.

The Open Source Development Labs has added new reliability, security and other requirements to a specification that's designed to make Linux better for telecommunications companies' servers.

The OSDL, an organization that's dedicated to building high-end features into Linux, plans to release on Thursday version 2 of the carrier-grade Linux specification (CGL), a list of technology requirements and recommendations companies can follow to ensure that their version of Linux will be useful for telecom equipment manufacturers.

Telecom companies have been avid technology buyers that long have favored Unix servers, making them one of the prime candidates for large-scale Linux use.

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Telecom equipment makers Alcatel, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, NEC and Nokia all contributed to the new CGL specification.

The CGL effort is geared toward telecommunications servers--the machines that handle tasks such as connecting phone calls, playing voice mail messages and recording a phone call's duration for billing purposes. But one effect of developing Linux for this market has been to make it better for all users, Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said.

"Eventually, that stuff is really going to be driven into Linux as a whole," Haff said. "The most significant thing about CGL is it's going to end up improving Linux."

The CGL specification isn't the be-all, end-all list of what customers would like in a telecommunications system, Tim Witham, director of the OSDL, said in an interview. Rather, it's a list of desirable features that are available with today's open-source technology.

"It had to be implementable"--not something that could only be created five years from now, Witham said. Version 3 of the CGL requirements list will expand as new abilities are added to the kernel at the heart of the operating system and to higher-level software, he added.

The new version of CGL requirements offers several new or expanded features.

In security, for example, a Linux version that meets CGL standards needs password-checking software to make sure that system users don't choose easy-to-guess passwords, technology to ensure that computing processes are restricted to appropriate resources, the ability to ensure that log files haven't been tampered with and the ability to encrypt files.

CGL also has requirements for cluster technology to ensure that services remain available, even if a server crashes. To do this well, faults must be detected quickly, problem servers must be isolated and their processes must be transferred to other servers.

The two leading Linux sellers, Red Hat and SuSE Linux, will add the new CGL features to their products.

"The new CGL guidelines will be fully implemented with (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) 9," due next year, SuSE spokesman Joe Eckert said. And Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, due to arrive this month, will support more than two-thirds of the features of the CGL 2.0 specification," plus an additional 12 CGL features--including Java, clustering and development environment tools--not specified by OSDL," Red Hat spokeswoman Leigh Day said.

MontaVista Software, which focuses on Linux for embedded computing devices rather than on traditional PCs or servers, has its own carrier-grade version that's used by customers such as NEC.

OSDL, the employer of Linux founder Linus Torvalds, is funded by Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Computer Associates International, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat and a multitude of other companies to improve Linux by testing new software and hardware, writing new software and coordinating industry efforts. In addition to its work on CGL, the organization also has a working group that's devoted to Data Center Linux.