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The Importance of the Open Standards Decision on Marketing WebSphere

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Web Exclusive. This article is companion content for The New Language of Marketing 2.0: How to use ANGELS to Energize Your Market, by Sandy Carter. Visit ibmpressbooks.com/angels to learn more about this release and access additional bonus content.
This chapter is from the book

By Karla Norsworthy

As the WebSphere product was conceived, IBM made a critical decision to make open standards an underlying technology principle. We felt that customers would gain the most value from an open platform that gave them the real flexibility in their selection of business applications. At the time, this was a revolutionary concept. Many vendors were focused on creating a proprietary platform and ecosystem that just supported their applications. Contrary to this trend, IBM decided to cooperate on open standards to create an interoperable industry platform. IBM would compete by delivering the best implementation of that platform. We chose to work with open interfaces to create a larger market, which attracted a larger ecosystem of application vendors, system integrators, and skilled practitioners. As application vendors and middleware players became intertwined, the marketplace was looking for someone who could play the part of a neutral party and integrate across these players and standards. This driver is a key advantage in our strategy.

As a result, all of our core technology decisions based on open standards have affected the way we market the WebSphere portfolio and driven our brand differentiation. Open standards have helped IBM deliver the messages that have helped drive the WebSphere product family success. Our focus on open source/open standards delivered significant value to customers, including

  • Choice: “I do not want to have to buy all my products from one vendor. I don’t want to be locked in. I want choices that will generate healthy competition in the marketplace. Products based on standards give me choice.”
  • Flexibility: “Not only do I not want to be locked into one vendor for my entire infrastructure today, but I also want to be able to swap out one vendor’s component for another’s tomorrow. If I use standards-based products, when I make my next purchase decision one year from now, I’ll have the flexibility to either choose the same vendor or a different one. In addition and most importantly, I can integrate across these products.”
  • Agility: “I can build new solutions more easily when I base things on standards, such as web services standards. It is much easier to interconnect across the system if the interface is built on standards, than if each one had their own private interfaces. More important than building the first solution is my ability to change it. Therefore, it is one thing to build the initial system but tougher to make changes later. If everything is based on standards, it is much easier for me to change the process, the order in which I process things through, or to add new services to better serve my customer.”
  • Speed: “Systems built on standards are quicker to build because many of the components are prebuilt, and we can connect components via standards-based interfaces rather than creating our own. In addition, it’s not just the speed of building the original solution but also the speed that I can update the original solutions. All of this is possible if I base everything on open interfaces.”
  • Skills: “When products are based on standards, it is much easier for customers to find skills to work on them. Java is a great example. If each of the vendors that have endorsed Java had instead built their own proprietary language, the marketplace for people who can work with and update these solutions would be much smaller. The ability to reuse skills is critical.”
  • Fair play: “Proprietary data and document formats are becoming increasingly disdained—why should I have to buy a specific piece of software to look at my data? Many governments are beginning to look at this closely, mandating use of open data and document formats, such as OpenDocument format (ODF). They feel it is important that a citizen should not have to purchase a particular vendor’s technology to access public information. In addition, countries that are trying to compete on a global market see that standards help level the playing field. Just add my unique function on top of the entire process.”
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