The Revival of Standards
Standardization Bodies May be Slow Moving, BUT They are Pertinent to Success
Standards… what a boring, old fashioned and backwards oriented term. How can the representative of a vendor that claims to be open, elastic and forward thinking use it in a headline? Be honest… this was one of the thoughts that ran through your mind while reading the title. Now relax and sit back, the following blog might surprise you.
The initial driver of the current “be open and virtualized” revolution was cost reduction. Mostly based on the idea that unlimited exchangeability would lead to massive price reductions. Great plan, unfortunately hasn’t worked yet and might never work to the assumed extent. Why? Because we collectively either ignored or missed the immanent complexity and challenges. Notably the fact that the imperative foundation for unlimited exchangeability is absolute interoperability (please mind the strong wording… you either do exactly that, or it doesn’t work as planned).
When looking at this great new world, we forgot how many years of work it took to form the “working” parts of today’s networks. Then the notion of standards turned from being just a bit boring and slow moving to the inhibitor of progress and a fortress of backwards oriented techies who saw their future in cementing the present. So the industry turned its collective back on standards bodies. Fast forward a few years and today the telecoms community is enjoying the results of ‘free love’ and ‘free beer’… what in other industries would be called chaos.
Standards bodies aren’t the fastest movers, and in the past they were sometimes accused of being too strongly influenced by certain vendors, where as a result standard A favored vendor X more. But realistically, in most cases this was only for the short time, until the others had caught up since finally the standard became public and thus widespread. Nowadays, ‘open’ communities are being influenced by certain vendors to an even higher degree, but the result is nowhere near useful. As a matter of fact, this chaos has driven some of us to reconsider single vendor solutions, taking us back to pre-standardization times. Maybe we all needed the current mess to understand that only standards brought us here, and that the absence of them leads to completely ‘closed’ systems rather than to fully ‘open’ ones.
Does anyone make money in standardization or standardized solutions? Well… is anyone allowed to make money on helping sick people? Philosophically the discussion may be very interesting, but as long as vendors are willing to pay for these solutions, there seems to be value, so why not? Doing it “for free” (as in open communities) clearly hasn’t worked any better, which goes to show the necessity for having at least some institutions around. The upcoming of the multitude of competing, overlapping or complementary non-standard solutions not surprisingly demonstrates that it’s as true for telecoms as for other businesses and politics… vacuums get filled quickly by fast movers and interested parties, and the results are not necessarily an improvement over the past.
So what’s next? With the absence of governmental institutions or military body that can march in and “help”, we might have to wait for either: 1) the classic standards bodies to catch up, or 2) for de-facto standards to appear. Maybe it will be an open source solution, maybe something else… at least it reminds us of the fact that not all traditional things are bad and not all new things are good per default.
To better understand how new concepts are living up to the hype, listen to the joint ECI and Light Reading Webinar with guest speakers from Level 3, Orange Business, and LinkedIn: Has SDN Lived Up to the Hype.
Topics: Enhancing Network Efficiency