Microsoft defends vendor standards lead
Interoperability by another name
LinuxWorld Microsoft has defended vendor-led standards and interoperability work rather than waiting for industry bodies to reach an open consensus.
Sam Ramji, Microsoft director of platform technology strategy, said vendors with complicated products like, say, Windows that implement thousands of standards can quickly identify and solve problems in areas like Windows and Linux interoperability.
"Vendors tend to lead and standards bodies to follow, communities tend to lead and standards bodies tend to follow," Ramji said. "It ends up being specific technologists that work together to solve standards issues."
Speaking at a LinuxWorld panel on interoperability between Linux and Windows, Ramji's view differed to Novell's director of marketing for Linux and open platforms, Justin Steinman. Novell last year signed a contentious deal with Microsoft covering IP protection and interoperability between Windows and SuSE Linux.
Steinman said it was important for vendors to participate in standards groups "otherwise we have people going off into corners... with two or three people working together instead of the broader community".
"We have a slightly different perspective," Steinman said. "Private people and private organizations like vendors drive interoperability, but bodies also drive interoperability. While it's important for vendors like Microsoft and Novell to get together and drive interoperability, we are only one voice in the Linux community."
He pointed to the recent secondment of SuSE manager Marcus Rex as Linux Foundation chief technology officer as an example of good participation. "The Linux community needs to be able to lead and drive and you need community leaders like Marcus to drive some of those standards."
Microsoft is no stranger to pushing the standards process to meet its own technology roadmaps and goals. Microsoft got in hot water for a non-standard implementation of MIT's Kerberos network authentication protocol in Windows 2000.
More recently, Microsoft eschewed bodies such as OASIS and W3C in the early days of web services to not only build a WS- roadmap with IBM, that others were constrained to adopt, but also took the lead on forming a special standards body - the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization - to certify products and maintain interoperability.
The WS- roadmap overlapped with efforts in existing standards bodies supported by the likes of Oracle and Sun Microsystems, much to these companies' ire.
Ironically using Kerberos to prove his point, Ramji claimed no standard existed around Kerberos as a communications protocol. "It's put into practice through vendors and community members and SIs and people who are wiling to make it work." ®
'"Vendors tend to lead and standards bodies to follow, communities tend to lead and standards bodies tend to follow," Ramji said...'
That may be what he said, but in practice what Microsoft wants is for ONE vendor to lead. Namely itself. Other vendors can go pound sand.
The general point is quite fair. In fact, one of the key things learned from a couple of decades of producing and refining IT standards is that the best way is usually not for a bunch of experts to sit down round a table and start thinking from scratch. Often the best results are attained when one or more vendors offer their viable, working software as a template for a new standard. OMG, for example, insists that all its specifications must be implemented in working software before it even considers adopting them.
But the process must be fair and open, not heavily biased in favour of one or two huge vendors.
I'd agree with MS's stance (down boys) if it wasn't for the fact that they have a poor track record at publishing their "standards"... and even when they do, they have a tendency to keep the good bits to themselves.
Anyone remember the myriads of hidden APIs that MS used to make its product respond better than the competition? And they want us to believe they won't repeat this oft-done tactic in the future? Does Amanfrommars use proper punctiuation?
I thought not.
Let's examine some of Microsoft's "Standards", shalle we?
ActiveX - the easiest way to get server-side script to infect your PC with malicious software.
FrontPage - used to build Web pages that can be properly viewed only on a specific version of a specific OS, if the client is using a specific version of a specific Office package. Confused? OK, here: one of my users build a Web site using FrontPage that can be hosted *only* on a Windows 2000 server, and can be properly viewed *only* on IE 6 or later and *only* if the client has MS Office 2000 installed. Won't work on Office 97, nor on Office 2003, nor on Office 2007.
WMA and WMV - yeah, those are real "standards," aren't they?
NTFS - which varies according to which version of Windows was used to format the drive.
Anyone else want to play?