Greg Hale of InTech has been talking a lot about innovation this week, and it got me thinking of how this applies to open standards like OPC. There is an argument that truly open standards do not evolve because vendors wish to maintain their proprietary edge, thus only implement the base open requirements. Jim Pinto wrote a good article on this a couple of years ago, stating that the “The intrinsic problem is this: Vendors want proprietary differentiation, which generates higher margins.” This may have been true, but now vendors are beginning to realize that relying on proprietary knowledge to maintain and grow market share is a short term vision. As users attempt to balance the comfort of a single source supplier with the desire for flexibility, innovation and competitive pricing, they inevitably migrate to open solutions that give them options where they need them.
OPC has overcome the ‘dichotomy of the open standard’ and is supported by many competing vendors. How? Vendors still want differentiation, so the competitive edge comes from how features beyond the base specifications are implemented in their product offerings. There is much that specification can not dictate, and is governed by how the implementation is done. This allows for variation among OPC products that allows leaders of innovation to create ‘best of breed’ products, while still maintaining interoperability and compliance to the standard.
When the ball really gets rolling on OPC UA, you will still see this innovation in implementation among the various products. Although OPC UA goes farther than just the interface layer, there is still much the specifications can’t completely layout. That’s where the innovation comes in.