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Multivendor systems running on diverse networks are a reality in most computing environments today. Getting these systems to interoperate is a difficult, yet critical requirement if businesses are to achieve their objectives. Open systems have emerged as the solution for integrating these multivendor computing environments.
There are many definitions of open systems, but the key characteristics and benefits can be summarized as follows. Open systems are those that provide interfaces at many levels that adhere to a set of formal or de facto industry standards. With the platform interoperability, software portability and decreased costs that characterize open systems, MIS professionals, end users and software developers can choose the best application and platform for their business needs. Open systems also permit multivendor distributed computing, with transparent user access to computing resources regardless of system or location. Open systems result in dramatically decreased costs due to increased vendor competition in an open market. With open systems, applications can be delivered faster, and users require less time to learn them.
The single most critical element of open systems is adherence to standards. Without standards, none of the above benefits can be fully realized. This article discusses the latest developments in standards definition, where standards come from and which are the most important for open systems.
Standard origins. Standards are established in several ways. First, there are national and international formal standards bodies that develop and promulgate standards. These include the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in the United States, and the International Organization for Standards (ISO) and the International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee (CCITT) for worldwide standards.
Second, there are a number of vendor consortia that attempt to expedite the implementation of standards in actual usable products or to create standards where none exist in the formal standards realm. These groups include: UNIX International (UI), the Open Software Foundation (OSF), the X/Open Company Ltd., 88open, SQL Access, the Object Management Group (OMG), the Corporation for Open Systems and others.
Third, de facto standards arise due to the dominant market presence of a vendor or product. Examples of de facto …