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Open Standards

Open standards are very important to the IT community, corporations, and software vendors and suppliers. This is an approach by which everyone can benefit. It aids new technologies such as utility computing by allowing for flexibility and choice.

Standards evolve, develop from numerous sources, and are managed by standards organizations—bodies that manage the agreement on, development of, education in, and future research for standards between all interested parties. Today, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. government body, there are close to 800,000 global standards on just about every conceivable product, service, object, or endeavor, from shoes to aircraft to mammograms. Cable TV, doorway heights, computer chips, and other innumerable products and services rely in some way on technology and standards.

The standards that apply to the IT industry have been both problem and solution. After 50 years of IT evolution, we are finally coming to the conclusion that it's in everyone's best interest to have standards for better communication and compatibility within and between vendors, suppliers, and users. It has taken us 50 years to reach this point, and we still have some way to go before open standards are universally accepted and implemented. Despite the unqualified benefits of open standards, many software vendors and corporations are reluctant to embrace this new approach.

Open standards address long-term, strategic business/industry issues, not simply the short-term, tactical/technical objectives of a single segment or company within the industry. Successful open standards expand the opportunities for the entire industry while providing users with long-term stability for technology. Standards also provide a sound foundation on which users can base their strategic business decisions.

The battle for "openness" is still being waged. For the most part, businesses are beginning to embrace open standards as a means of ensuring degrees of flexibility and vendor independence. Many vendors have also embraced open standards, because their role in the ecosystem as either provider of horizontal infrastructure or networking capability necessitates it. It's also their desire to participate in markets dominated by other players, who use their market position to promote their proprietary interfaces. Some vendors have been successful in exploiting what economists call the network effect—the tendency toward adoption of a common platform owing to the intersecting interests and interdependencies of ecosystem participants, including consumers. In turn, these companies have been able to exert control over programming interfaces and document formats to protect their market positions.

The advantages of open standards to utility computing are significant:

  • Allows disparate and previously incompatible hardware and software from multiple vendors to work together seamlessly

  • Can allow different network protocols to work together

  • Substantial IT costs and savings

  • Breaks down the barriers of proprietary systems by providing common platforms

  • Decreases or spread the complexity of architectures and systems in general

  • Savings on capital expenses, as existing computing resources can be used instead of purchasing new machines

  • Lower operating costs

Flexibility and independence are the watchwords of the future.

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