In a recent presentation at one of the Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF) Lunch Speaker Series sessions, Dave Ward, an OpenStand Advocate at CISCO, addressed the connection between open standards and open source, with the intention of opening up a conversation around the topic.
The reality of the importance of this dialog became evident after Ward jumped into the open source space after spending decades in the open standards world, finding the two camps very different. In an era where new Open Source Consortiums (OSS) are being started daily to expedite innovation, it’s important to acknowledge that the cycle time of an OSS and a SDO are fundamentally different. Yet, as Ward argues, they can be complementary to each other. Where some experts dismiss or disregard the role of SDOs in an open source era, Ward asserts that standards bodies must exist to ensure the functionality of the Internet. Without open standards, Ward says the Internet would become a “Tower of Babel” where nothing would function in an interoperable way.
In the current technological climate, Ward says, “There are a lot of people coding and not standardizing, and a lot of people standardizing and maybe coding afterwards.” This creates two fundamentally different vantage points. Ward sees a danger within the open source camp, which is the “co-opting of open source and the lack of governance” which will result in security flaws, smaller communities, and fragmentation and asserts that “APIs and frameworks will be the future standards for software and network-driven architectures.”
Ward went further to argue that the two differing camps need each other, stating the OSS cycle time can create a market-based consensus to fill a standards void. In tandem, rapid innovation necessitates standards development, making SDOs integral and critical part of open source development.
He highlights the below quote from the IETF:
“If open APIs become the de facto definition of interoperability requirements, the role of standardization bodies and the opportunity for operators to influence specifications diminishes. As a result, the functional interoperability (and interchangeability) of vendors and devices will decrease, potentially leading to a more proprietary and less open and global nature of the internet.”
In order to be successful, a collaborative loop must exist between SDOs and OSS. Open source bodies, like the Linux, Apache, OpenStack and Eclipse foundations have this collaboration built in.
An excellent resource for further study on the topic of SDOs and OSSs, which much of the content he discusses is based upon, can be found in IETF’s recently published draft, Operators and the IETF in the Culture section. Ward suggests that everyone read this.
Ward’s belief in the necessity of standards organizations like OpenStand means a lot to those of us who are working daily to raise awareness about the need for open standards.