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Standards Drive Productivity

This article appeared in TechCrunch. It’s pretty IT oriented, but the thoughts are relevant for the OT world, too.

The author, Ron Miller, reported that Amazon’s AWS move to join an industry standard on a technology known as containers signals the importance of standards.

Get Smart: Standards develop in a number of ways. Not all of them are ISA or ISO or IEC, although these definitely have a place. An industry leader once told me, “Gary, the best industry standards are de facto standards.” These are the ones that build a critical mass among users and developers and that solve real problems.

When AWS today became a full-fledged member of the container standards body, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, it represented a significant milestone. By joining Google, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat and just about every company that matters in the space, AWS has acknowledged that when it comes to container management, standards matter.

Does this sound familiar to the industrial automation market? AWS has been known to go the proprietary route, after all. When you’re that big and powerful, and control vast swaths of market share as AWS does, you can afford to go your own way from time to time. Containers is an area it hasn’t controlled, though. That belongs to Kubernetes, the open source container management tool originally developed inside Google.

What does it take for standards to win? Once it recognized Google’s dominance in container management, the next logical step was to join the CNCF and adhere to the same container standards the entire industry is using. Sometimes it’s better to switch than fight, and this was clearly one of those times.

The reason for standards. Standards provide a common basis for managing containers. Everyone can build their own tools on top of them. Google already has when it built Kubernetes, Red Hat has OpenShift, Microsoft makes Azure Container Service — and so forth and so on.

As for end users: Companies like standards because they know the technology is going to work a certain way, regardless of who built it. Each vendor provides a similar set of basic services, then differentiates itself based on what it builds on top.

Benefits for all: Technology tends to take off once a standard is agreed upon by the majority of the industry. Look at the World Wide Web. It has taken off because there is a standard way of building web sites. When companies agree to the building blocks, everything else seems to fall into place.

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