Several major Linux distributors will announce a new enterprise GNU/Linux operating system based on Debian in August, according to reports.

If true, the move would mean a new level of prominence for Debian, as well as for the Linux Standard Base (LSB), a standard for making different vendors' Linux versions as compatible as possible.

Mandriva (formerly MandrakeSoft and Conectiva), Progeny and Turbolinux are to unveil the Debian-based software at LinuxWorld in San Francisco next month, according to eWeek. The three vendors, and possibly others, will use the software as the basis for their server distributions, said the report, citing vendor sources. The software will support Red Hat technology such as RPM package management

Mandriva responded that it is indeed working with Progeny and Turbolinux on a core distribution supporting the LSB, as part of its work with the Linux Core Consortium (LCC), and as announced last November. But the company said it is not planning an August release, and couldn't confirm the distribution would be based on Debian. The other vendors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mandriva, Progeny and Turbolinux are already working together as the founding members of the LCC, created in November 2004 as a way of backing the LSB's standardisation efforts.

In some ways the LCC followed in the footsteps of UnitedLinux, a now-defunct attempt at uniting several vendors around a single distribution. UnitedLinux used the enterprise distribution of Novell's Suse Linux as a basic platform, with other founding members including Conectiva, Turbolinux and the SCO Group. The LCC places more emphasis than UnitedLinux on the LSB, a project designed to keep Linux distributions from fragmenting as Unix did.

The group said in November it would create a Linux distribution core based on LSB 2.0, to be used by all group members as the basis for their own distributions, and maintained under a joint development framework. The core was originally planned for the first quarter of this year, but has not yet been released.

Greater standardisation in the Linux world would simplify things for sysadmins by reducing differences such as installation procedures and application availability. Software and hardware vendors could also benefit - the LCC plans to allow them to certify for the single core instead of for each individual distribution.

The rise of Debian
The LCC did not initially specify that Debian would be the basis for their distribution, but such a move would make sense, according to many in the industry.

Debian was intended as the LSB's reference distribution when the LSB was initially founded. And Debian has become a platform of choice for new distributions. Commercial distributions Linspire, Xandros, Ubuntu and Progeny are all based on Debian. So are the Linux distributions customised for Munich and Vienna, LiMux and Wienux, and Extremadura in Spain, known as LinEx.

Last month's stable release of "Sarge", the latest Debian version, has added to the interest. Debian is not itself a commercial distribution, but is regarded as one of the most technologically advanced Linux versions.

Ian Murdock, founder of Debian as well as chairman and chief strategist at Progeny, has said in recent interviews that Mandriva's strategy of acquiring smaller Linux vendors around the world - such as Conectiva and the assets of Lycoris - means the company's shift to a Debian base is practically inevitable.