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Open Standards and Vendor Neutrality

$id = 123; Posted on July 30th, 2007 by Eric Murphy

Came across this article on open standards not long ago.  “Is our idea of “Open Standards” good enough? Verifiable vendor-neutrality”   Can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, maybe a link from Gary or Jim?  Either way, since it’s all about open standards, of course it got me thinking about how OPC measures up.

According to his bio, the author is a proponent for open standards, and the opening statement backs that up.

“Open standards are clearly a good thing. Hurrah for open standards, etc. Nail my hat to the ceiling!
But anyone who has been involved in community and consortium committees where there are commercial rivalries engaged knows that the thing that kills or corrupts a standard is when the spirit of mutual accommodation is overtaken by the spirit of competition”

I’ve been involved with many of the OPC specifications working groups, including OPC UA, and I can honestly say that the spirit of mutual accommodation is alive and well with OPC.  I think one of the main reasons for this, is from the beginning the charter members were focused on solving the problem of interoperability, not trying to push any one proprietary standard to the for front.  Too often ‘open standards’ evolve from competing solutions vying for the lion share of adoption.  OPC really doesn’t have any direct competitor.  I’d argue (and have before) that other protocols that may have overlap in some areas are complementary not competitors.

The main thrust of the article is that those that drive open standards need to meet his definition of verifiably vendor-neutral.

Vendor-neutral here means that the standard does not discriminate against any realistic players, either by making basic implementation too hard or by disallowing vendor-specific features or innovations or experiments, where appropriate.”

Again OPC as a standard does a good job of this. Although the ‘classic’ OPC specifications didn’t specifically provide ways to extend the standard interfaces, they didn’t do anything to preclude this either. That’s the main reason users can get products that add functionality such as redundancy, tunneling or calculations without sacrificing standardization.  OPC UA does go one step further and actually provides methods for extending the specs or providing vendor specific information.  (I’ve blogged on that as well).

Of course a goal on any OPC vendor is to provide universal connectivity to a wide range of systems.  Therefore it is in their best interests to be vendor neutral, and have good working relationships with all the major players.   Seems to be working for OPC.

The article that got me thinking on this stuff is on an O’Reilly site, which got me thinking about when is there going to be an ‘OPC in A Nutshell’ from O’Reilly?  (Yes, I am easily distracted).   Of course, the biggest challenge is coming up with what animal to put on the cover.   It’s all about connectivity, so I’d say a Spider, but I think that one’s taken.  Anyone?  Maybe a Peruvian Boomslang?

2 Responses to “Open Standards and Vendor Neutrality”

  1. Sharon Rosner Says:

    Here”s the original article:

    http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/07/is_our_idea_of_open_standards.html

    The article discusses ODF and Open Office XML as two competing standards, the specifications for both of which BTW are readily available for download:

    http://www.ecma-international.org/news/TC45_current_work/TC45-2006-50_final_draft.htm

    http://docs.oasis-open.org/office/v1.1/OS/OpenDocument-v1.1-html/OpenDocument-v1.1.html

    When will the OPC foundation offer the OPC specifications for download by anybody?

    Can OPC UA really be considered an ”open standard” when it”s really open only for secret club members?

    I find the behavior of the OPC foundation to be really baffling. You say one thing and you do another. But by your policies you shut out a large number of independent developers who are thirsty for more information on OPC. There are many OPC products out there which were developed by reverse-engineering rather than by implementing the standard. If O”Reilly were indeed to do a book on OPC, would you let them publish the specs?

  2. Eric Murphy Says:

    I knew when I was writing this post on open standards, that someone would bring up the topic of paying for download. Sharon, it’s good to hear you are still in the blogsphere, since you always provide a rational argument with your views on OPC. The whole conversation on ‘Does Open Mean Free?’ is definitely one worth having. Stay tuned for a follow up posting….

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