IBM embraces the standards approach

IBM is shedding its proprietary past and embracing an open standards future.

"Every business in this industry has a proprietary past," said Al Zollar, general manager, iSeries, IBM Systems Group. One of the standards that IBM is focusing on is the open source Linux operating system.

In recent years, Linux has been gaining popularity among enterprises, especially in less critical areas such as internal file and print services.

IBM had, in recent years, become the biggest vendor supporter of the Linux operating system. An IBM press statement said that the company had witnessed 600 percent growth in the implementation of Linux in its iSeries midrange server line throughout Asia Pacific.

Apart from IBM, enterprise players such as Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems are also supporting more and more open source-based software.

According to Zollar, the open source movement is a factor that will help to bring on faster creation of de facto standards. "Open source movement will spur a lot of new ideas," said Zollar.

"Linux is not a standard in the precise sense," said Zollar when asked about the standardization process for Linux. "It is similar to the standardization process as the technology is not controlled by a single supplier but by a whole community."

Zollar believes that the most important factor that would ensure long term viability of Linux is the community and the people who participate in the project. "Linus Torvalds is the creator," said Zollar. "If he is not the team leader, there will be another team leader."

New standards will come from every which way and not just from traditional standards bodies. In the future, there will not be a single source for the formulation and development of standards.

Zollar said, "Traditionally, standards are formulated and developed by bodies such as Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). However, future development of new standards may not be quite as straightforward anymore."

Zollar was speaking at the Asia Pacific Strategic Planning Conference on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. He believes that the Internet helps to bring together developers.

The development of the Internet allows developers to form groups quickly and results in much faster creations of de facto standards. De facto standards refer to "standards" that are formed to serve as a basic yardstick without being legally or officially established.

He believes that the origins of standards will be of lesser concern in the future. "It is not where they came from, but where they go," emphasized Zollar.

The Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), is an example of an open source, community-based standard given by Zollar. It is a grid system architecture based on Web services concepts and technologies that is being viewed as a standard for virtualizing components on the Internet. It will be able to virtualize multiple system on a single architecture.

"The open standard allows the Internet to be virtualized in a powerful way," said Zollar.

Another example of alternative standard formation is the Java Specification Requests (JSR) from Sun Microsystems. For JSR, a standard-based approach is used to create a process, the Java Community Process (JCP), to create pseudo-standards that are used in the IT industry. From the JCP, many business integration standards such as portlets have been created.

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