More clarity from standards bodies may help users

If standards bodies could better define their focus and offerings, users would find it easier to navigate through the wide range of offerings.

Navigating through technology standards can be confusing and complex, and enterprise IT users would welcome more clarity from standards organizations.

"There's a lot of confusion," John Schmidt, president of the Integration Consortium and senior vice president of architecture/engineering at Bank of America, said Tuesday.

Specifically, these groups could better explain their individual technology and industry focus and how their offerings compare with standards from other organizations. "Clearer positioning would help through an overarching standards spectrum of how [different] standards [and standards bodies] fit and complement each other," Schmidt said.

He spoke during and after a panel debate at the Integration Consortium's Global Integration Summit in Boston. The consortium is a nonprofit body that aims to influence both current and future IT integration efforts. Members include end-user companies such as American Express Co., Merck & Co. and Pfizer as well as hardware and software vendors and academic institutions.

Taking the current standards situation, "It's easy to look at it as a mess that is rather hard to understand," Schmidt said. He's heartened by a growing focus on architecting entire IT systems as more and more companies start looking at services-oriented architecture. SOA is a way to create and manage IT systems through reusable software and services.

In the past, firms had tended to focus more on the design of specific pieces of their IT systems and less on taking a structured, disciplined approach to building all their enterprise applications and ensuring all their tools and technologies embodied best practices. Bank of America is using SOA and is finding it "a very effective architectural strategy," Schmidt said.

As for what future challenges IT integration might face, Schmidt put up slides of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft.

"Look at what interests your children for the future of integration," he said, citing the example of his two sons, aged 15 and 21, who are able to virtually interact through playing World of Warcraft while 300 miles apart in the real world, living at home and at college respectively.

Perhaps one of the future integration challenges the IT world will be facing is how to define standards for virtual characters, Schmidt suggested. This could become more of an issue as individuals look to use the same online persona both in their entertainment systems and in their work environments, he said.

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