Open Standards-The Only Option
By Scott Hebner
May 1, 2001 —
(Page 1 of 3)
Remember Al Gore once joked to David Letterman, "I invented the Internet, and I can take it away"? While proprietary software systems may not be quite so severe in their threatened effect, they can hinder the growth of the Internet. Fortunately, open standards allow people to integrate business processes from all over the world, build best-of-breed systems and communicate with confidence with users of other systems, to the degree that they do not even have to think about it.
Those who support the open-standards philosophy believe it is best to cooperate on technical standards and compete on implementation. It is a simple yet profound formula that has worked spectacularly well for numerous other industries throughout the industrialized age, including railroads, telecommunications, consumer electronics and utilities such as gas, electricity and water. Unfortunately, not all technology companies believe that open standards are the way to go with Internet technologies.
The Internet, almost by definition, is an integrated collection of open standards, and its benefits should be as accessible as possible. It is crucial that it not become a battleground for competing proprietary standards.
Take Web services. They represent the confluence of technology and adherence to open standards that will enable business success.
Web services are self-describing, self-contained, modular applications that can be mixed and matched with other Web services to create innovative processes and value chains. They can be accessed in asynchronous and synchronous modes (online and offline), through any client device (PCs, cell phones, handheld computers and so on). Web services can communicate with each other and are knowledgeable about their functions and roles in an application work flow, including inputs they require, outputs and their presentation format.
Using Web services, firms will be able to routinely publish services, access them and invoke them without being aware of who the service requester is or who the provider is beforehand. This will allow businesses to focus on their core competencies and outsource all other essential, noncore activities at runtime. Business structures will be altered, and traditional models of creating and sustaining competitive advantages will be redefined. Users who need innovative solutions to enhance their competitive edge will be able to do so without having to worry about integration with existing systems and support for their business processes.