Standards Meant to Slow Down Things?

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-03-27 Print this article Print


Yet, a developer at another company looking at the manifesto and also asked for anonymity said: "I think Steven the Microsoft guy hit the nail on the head. These guys calling for standards are doing so out of their own self-interest. They're behind in the cloud computing game, so they're using standards to slow things down until they can catch up. Standards have no place in a nascent market like this. The cloud computing market could very well be 180 degrees different in 6-12 months. Who knows?"

Meanwhile, the observers comparing the Open Cloud Manifesto to CORBA are doing so disparagingly. But Eric Newcomer, a CORBA expert and former chief technology officer at IONA and now working in the office of the CTO at Progress, said, "This is strange because CORBA succeeded better than most standards. It's still in use around the world, and every app server is required to include it as part of Java EE [Enterprise Edition]. But the thrust of the criticism seemed to be that all standards fail and why try to standardize cloud computing."

But to Newcomer, who is a veteran of many a standards battle, this is a strange attitude. "It's like saying let's not have ASCII or language standards or SQL or HTML or anything," he said. "Sure, many if not a majority of standardization efforts do not achieve success, but when they do it benefits everyone. The Web is maybe the best example."

Moreover, it is true that the standards game changed during Web services, which is another effort that could be described as a partial success, Newcomer said.

"Vendors decided to 'jump-start' the process by developing specs in small groups initially and then submit fairly complete versions to standards bodies for ratification," he said. "SCA was done this way, for example, based on the precedent set by Microsoft and IBM during the Web services days. This approach is not really open, however, as it results in additional vendor control over the results. Sometimes this can reduce the chances for adoption since the vendors may agree on a particular design approach that excludes other vendor designs or seeks to impose control on a disruptive innovation. "

And, for his part, while explaining the standards process, Newcomer gets down to the nitty-gritty:

"What you try to do with a standard if you can is bless your own approach over another vendor's approach, or get out in front of a new trend by leading the design adopted by the industry.

"Cloud computing is certainly one of those areas in which implementations and designs vary widely. It may be too early for standardization. But as always, the potential for a successful standard should not be overlooked because that can benefit everyone by establishing a foundation for innovation and lowering prices and eliminating barriers to adoption. Common skills and understanding is another benefit of a successful standard. But there is no formula for this, and the odds of success are often pretty long."

So it looks like a standards battle is brewing. But with the importance of the cloud to the future of computing, perhaps the players can all get to the table and agree on some basic, open specifications that can level the playing field for all.


Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel