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Opening the Standards

Oct 25, 2016
Rick Bauer
Rick Bauer About the author

Rick Bauer discusses how the traditional standards-making process is transitioning to a collaborative effort.  

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The industry is moving fast, and what used to work, isn’t cutting it anymore. The traditional way of making standards must evolve. Rick Bauer gives his thoughts on how we need “open” standards in this Networking Computing contributed piece. You can read an excerpt from that article below:

An important shift is under way that's helping bring interoperable products to market more quickly than in the past. Rather than working in isolation in their separate domains, technical standards bodies and open source communities are becoming more closely intertwined.

Customers, service providers, and equipment makers alike benefit from this collaborative approach, which is making the IT industry more competitive and reducing the barriers to entry for new participants.

The need for “open” standards

The goal of standards is to provide interoperability and data exchange across diverse products and services from multiple vendors. To achieve that goal, standards must be widely implemented.

Historically, defining a standard has been a lengthy process in which a group of stakeholders in a particular industry segment or technology area (usually vendors) determine the key behaviors and other common denominators needed for interoperability. The result of their efforts is typically a lengthy written specification that companies then have to figure out how to develop into products.

While this process has worked for decades, it has shortcomings. Too often, these printed standards are bloated with features and functions that customers and even vendors don’t need or want. In addition, standards bodies can be highly politicized. It’s not uncommon for the market leader in a given area to dominate the activity in a standards body, and even attempt to drag out the process to protect their market position. In some cases, participants in a given technical area may not be ready for a standards body approach, or they lack the time to reach consensus around a standard.

The traditional standards-making process is out of sync with the rapid pace of today’s software-driven industries and the inclusion of more open source software in products. Given the pace of our industry, standards must be open for faster development. I use the term “open” standard to refer to a type of technical standard that is not produced in a vacuum of closed membership contributors, but by a technical community that is actively engaged in open source instantiations of its standards in software.

Standards bodies need to work in concert with software developers and, ideally, should deliver both written specifications and code that enables a standard to be implemented ubiquitously.

Learn more about the role of open source, and who we’re currently collaborating with in the open source community, by reading the full article on Network Computing.

- Rick Bauer, Head of Standards

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