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Standards Matter More Than Ever

Standards Matter More Than Ever

David O’Berry

It’s time for IT professionals to participate in the industry instead of just watching as it evolves. One way to do that is to push vendors to abandon their proprietary technologies and demand they support open standards and frameworks.

It’s time for IT professionals to participate in the industry instead of just watching as it evolves. One way to do that is to push vendors to abandon their proprietary technologies and demand they support open standards and frameworks.

For the past decade, large companies have wagged the dog by manipulating, wasting time and, in general, simply not allowing the industry to standardize in a timely manner. Some of the largest vendors have opted out of standardization efforts in hopes of forcing people to choose their technology, thereby locking out competitors and locking in customers. Many might say this is a valid business practice, and in the past it might well have been based solely on a dollars-and-cents perspective. That era has passed, and the future should belong to open, nonproprietary and scalable solutions.

Given the rapid evolution of security threats today, we don’t have time for a slow, painful, politics-filled standards process where the incumbent vendors drag their feet until they are forced to the table by market pressure. All of us have witnessed the battles over standards such as OSPF, LLDP, IGMP, SMI-S, SFLOW/AVDL and TCG/TNC. From these various struggles, we have become familiar with the concept of vendor lock-in and de facto standards. At the same time, we are also nearly overwhelmed by the complexity of handling security in our heterogeneous environments. Though we may feel powerless, we wield a great deal of influence if we band together.

It is time to stand up as a profession with one voice and say to the vendors we support with our dollars, “Do what is right.” It is time to stand up and say that we will no longer allow the tail to wag the dog. At every juncture, we must demand aggressive support of standards. We must push our vendors to not only participate in organizations like the Trusted Computing Group, with its standards-based network access control framework, but also openly embrace and contribute to organizations like it.  

It is time to question road maps and require that the vendors we choose to patronize are not only endorsing but supporting and truly embracing open standards that will encourage the sharing of information, as well as the interoperability of heterogeneous pieces critical to our foundations.

It is time for our profession to take a leadership role in what we are doing as it relates to vendors and their products and interactions with one another. It is time for us to act before we are told we should do something by the very people who then want to sell us the tools to do it. It is time for a greater percentage of IT leaders to come from within the consumers of the technology rather than the purveyors.

This is our time.

Spurring Standards Adoption

  • Learn what standards surround your deployments and what you will need to focus on going forward.
  • Require your vendors to adhere to standards and to show you road maps for when standards will be embraced.
  • Apply the standards. Do not take what looks like the simple way out when confronted with a choice of using standards or sticking with a single-vendor solution.
Jan 14 2008

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