Looking to head off bugs and to allay fears that its software is not as robust as its competition, MandrakeSoft announced a new development process this week that the company hopes will broaden the appeal of its software.
According to the company, which is known for its Linux distributions targeted toward the technical community, the new quality-assurance scheme will produce a “rock solid” version of Mandrake Linux called Mandrake Linux 10.0 Official, expected in the first half of this year.
“The new development scheme will answer the needs of both those who want all the best innovations as soon as available, even at the risk of minor glitches, and those who don’t mind to wait and prefer an improved reliability,” Mandrake said in a statement.
Meta Group senior program director Thomas Murphy told LinuxInsider that Mandrake is trying to convey that its development process still delivers the newest Linux features and functions, but is also as reliable as any software vendor’s procedure.
“They’re showing, ‘We’re trying to follow a well-established, solid process going forward, [and] we won’t let you have a questionable product,'” Murphy said.
Preventing Bug Bites
Mandrake said its previous development process, which involved a “cooker” beta version that is updated and modified by more than 1,000 contributors, will be improved with the new model. Despite the large testing audience and lengthy testing cycles, Mandrake said the diversity of hardware and software configurations has made it impossible to head off unresolved issues normally discovered after an official release.
One example was a critical CD-ROM drive incompatibility issue in Mandrake Linux 9.2, which was discovered and reported after the final release of the software, Mandrake said.
Praising the usefulness of a one- or two-month testing period after an official software launch, Mandrake said its Linux 10.0 release will consist of a community or test version due in February or March, the addition of security updates and bug fixes in the form of the Mandrake Linux 10.0 Stable, and finally the Mandrake Linux 10.0 Official release in April or May.
Meta Group’s Murphy said the core idea of the new process is good, adding that it addresses some of the apprehension surrounding Linux and open-source software among enterprises.
“With Linux and open source in general, if a corporation were to have an issue behind it, there’s not really as much of a defined production-management and release-management process there,” he said. “When there are questions about whether Linux is really as safe as Microsoft, this is a process by which these get shaken out.”
Murphy added that he expects similar announcements from other Linux and open-source software vendors as they try to show there is a process “to make you feel safe and comfortable.”
Broadened by Process
Although he said he doubts the new process will do much to speed Linux adoption on the desktop, Murphy noted that Mandrake might be able to reach beyond end users and into business markets with the new development process.
“Mandrake has a variety of different things,” he said. “They certainly are trying to get to a variety of people. This piece could potentially do that, but this is one piece.”
Calling the more intensive development process “one of the key things you need to do” to encourage new users, Murphy added that markets are determined by the bar set by other vendors, and Mandrake is now offering what other software vendors provide.
No Need for Change
Harvard Research Group Linux analyst Bill Claybrook, however, said the growing number of Linux developers illustrates that the industry is already comfortable with the open-source development process.
“I think it’s actually fine,” Claybrook told LinuxInsider, referring to development efforts at telecom giant Verizon. “If there was not a fairly well-established development process, I don’t think as many people would be developing on Linux.”
As for Mandrake, Claybrook said he doubts the company will be able to move beyond its role as a “bit player,” with the likes of Red Hat and SuSE Linux now winning most enterprise business. “The chances of them doing anything to break into the enterprise are pretty much impossible,” he said.