The standards edge

As any business application area nears maturity, the question of standards versus proprietary solutions is bound to arise. The standard versus proprietary technology debate is an ongoing one. One of the main arguments against proprietary technology is that it locks customers in.

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By  Angela Sutherland Published  May 28, 2006

|~||~||~|As any business application area nears maturity, the question of standards versus proprietary solutions is bound to arise. The standard versus proprietary technology debate is an ongoing one. One of the main arguments against proprietary technology is that it locks customers in. However, vendors are starting to realise that end users do not like the idea of vendor lock-in, and are starting to explore the standards option. Technology developers are starting to turn towards standards set by international bodies. Currently, most IT solutions are customised and not interoperable. In the standardisation process, the rules are set; every solution must be tested according to those criteria. A major advantage of standardisation is that it leads to wide-scale adoption. In addition, standards-based solutions are less expensive to develop and produce, since equipment manufacturers do not need to develop or outsource every component associated with proprietary solutions. As a result, manufacturers enjoy economy-of-scale advantages. However, there are still some vendors that insist on using their own proprietary technology, making interoperability an issue and restricting options for the end user. “These vendors have no other aim than making money, with no real desire to provide a service,” says Tahir Khan, systems engineer at 3Com Middle East. “It is pretty much only beneficial to the company which develops the proprietary standard, because it locks in the customer. It is protecting its own business.” Khan is keen to deter suppliers from developing proprietary technology and for end users to adopt it. He claims the issue of proprietary technology is one that affects open standards-based suppliers such as 3Com. “Every day in our lives we find this issue of interoperability, where we are unable to update the existing infrastructure unless it is the product of the same vendor.” Today’s networks demand much more than simple connectivity that requires a global interaction of services, claims Khan. “If everyone is using its own standards, then how are we going to have global integration with each other? Interaction can only be possible if everyone is using open standards.” To evaluate any technology, standard or not, end users have to examine it in detail and understand the target market. If a given technology is good and also standard, that is a good thing. Many standards fail, and are not accepted in the marketplace. Many non-standard technologies also fail. It is up to end users to decide what will work for them. ||**||

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