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Next: Looking Toward Consensus: Up: The Structure of IT Previous: Introduction

The Opening Statements

Tony Rutkowski begins the debate on October 20, 1994 with a simple statement in response to a summary of the discussion at the ANSI sponsored Information Infrastructure Standards Panel (IISP) Meeting.

Somehow most of this overview seems curiously to not recognize the existence of today's largest and fastest growing open global computer networking infrastructure - namely the Internet and Enterprise Internets.

Tony continued to press his point, and on November 24th asked Chick Hayden of ANSI to clarify a phrase from the organizational plan for the IISP that specified that the steering committee would include member companies, government representatives, and ``12 standards developing and other organizations.'' His note suggested that the ANSI definition tended to favor the more traditionally oriented SDO's and that the NII effort should be more broad and inclusive.

On November 30th, the debate was joined when Steve Oksala responded. Steve took an analytic approach to the issues and began by articulating the top down structure that is deduced by beginning with the international organizations.

``International Standards Organizations'' are those generally recognized by both the private and public sectors as the fora for establishing formal international standards. For the IT field, this means the ITU . . . the ISO and IEC. . . .[R]epresentation is on a national basis; that is, countries have delegates - not companies, or individuals, or any other type of entity.

The note continues with a structure that falls out of this starting position -- the international forum assumes national organizations which oversee and sanction standards developers in given sectors; the national organizations are then responsible for moving these standards up to the international arena. In the position statement, an important distinction is made about the role of the standards bodies in developing and approving standards.

The structure is set up, and always has been, to deal with the latter[approval]. At the real technical level[development] most of the organizations allow some level of individual expert unbound by organizational commitments. It's only at the voting stage[approval] that structure really counts. ...[T]he national body representation is a useful methodology [because] keeps the number of participants in the approval process within reasonable bounds.... [and] it is consistent with the structure of governments who have a significant stake in the results.

Given the need for a national body form of representation, Oksala goes on to conclude that self-declaration of SDO's would be less than desirable, and that the ANSI role of recognizing/accrediting organizations makes sense. In conclusion, he acknowledges that there are still outstanding issues to be addressed in this framework:

We have not [settled] how to deal with . . . organizations which do develop consensus standards and who do have a non-trivial international participation base. My suggestion would be that such organizations get accreditation in a national system and utilize it and the international system to good effect.

The next entry in the exchange took little more than 3 hours to emerge. Tony Rutkowski's response basically suggested that he could not buy into the top down structure that Oksala had put forward. In fact, the response dealt very little with the issues of structure and approval (other than market acceptance) of standards.

The traditional standardization architecture ``de facto'' is not the real standardization architecture anymore. There is a new standards universe of organizations that has been created where most of the real standards today are developed -- with a number of threads linking the two universes. And there are people on both sides trying to bring harmony and cooperation between the two.

Rutkowski continues with some criticism of the nature of the large bureaucracies which have developed at the international level and opts to focus on marketplace and ``industry constellations'' as the appropriate venues for deciding which standards to use.

Internet Standards [are] developed by a very different process . . . which also promotes an exceptionally open development process that brings highly innovative and productive individuals and groups into the development stream. The IETF motto that it ``doesn't recognize Kings - only running code'' describes the culture. As a result, its standards have captured better than 99 percent of the marketplace and lead the entire Global Information Infrastructure revolution occurring today. There are other comparable groups that have been created over the past few years that have also been highly successful.gif

The next day, December 1, 1994 Dan Bart of the Telecommunications Industries Association (TIA) entered the debate. Basically, he sided with Oksala noting:

The structured framework, the open participation, the due process provisions, and the IPR [Intellectual Property Rights] policies are all things that support good Standards.

He goes on to address two issues. First, the claim that the new developers move more quickly, and second, the notion that traditional SDO's can't speed their process.

. . . Those bodies or groups who claim to develop technical requirements faster often only achieve that goal by changing the consensus threshold to something like ``a 2/3 vote will get it through.'' If 1/3 of a group still doesn't like it, I don't believe you have a well-thought out, technically sound proposal.


TIA's fiber optics Committees developed many ANSI Standards at a time of rapidly changing technology and revisited those standards as frequently as every 18 months. If warranted, they were revised. We are now reviewing them at 30 month intervals. Mature ANSI standards are looked at every 60 months. . . . I have listened to presentations from participants of forums who claim Standards take too long and then look at their timeline for development and don't see much difference from TIA's timelines.

Tony Rutkowski responded the next day to a point made by Dan Bart about the variety of different standards being developed, Rutkowski observed:

There has been a kind of implicit assumption that any kind of technology in every marketplace can have the same kinds of standards developed by the same kinds of processes. . . . It's struck me that TIA over the years has been particularly effective in developing standards because it's been very pragmatic about identifying those technologies and applications where it can play a role - and those where it cannot.

On December 19th, Steve Oksala made some additional comments on what we will consider the end of the opening statements. He divides his comments into two parts. A first section deals with the IISP and while Steve presents a careful, thorough, and balanced view of the matters under discussion, it is perhaps simplest to summarize his remarks with a very brief quote.

. . . [T]he ISOC (perhaps I really mean IETF) is an organization equivalent to X3, T1, IEEE, EIA, and other standards developing organizations - and the IISP is a place for them to meet and conduct liaison. I would therefore like to see the Internet folks as active participants at IISP, since they are every bit as much a standards organization in terms of ``product'' as anyone.

The second part of his comments addressed standardization more generally. He points out the similarities, and some of the differences, among the various groups that develop standards. He returns to the leitmotif of a two phase process -- development and approval -- and states:

This first phase is followed by a second phase where a much smaller group provides an approval process, making sure that consensus has really been met and the technical output is consistent with objectives. The way in which this smaller group is selected varies widely across organizations; sometimes its members are elected, sometimes appointed, and in others anyone willing to pay the fee can join. But almost all the groups have this two-level process.

Oksala goes on to try to identify the issue which causes contention. He rejects the notion that the US process he has identified is too ``top down.'' He suggests that the real issue may be the underlying standardization models, which he refers to as:

(A) the Competitive Market, and (B) the Coordinated Market, the latter being one way to characterize the ANSI/ISO process. In the Competitive Market model, standards organizations (and here I include consortia, trade associations, or anyone else who develops standards) are encouraged to compete to produce the best product; the market will determine which is successful. In many ways this resembles a normal competitive market, except that the competitors are groups of companies rather than individual ones.

He suggests that:

The Coordinated Market model exists because it provides value, and that value will continue to exist. It is based on a premise . . . that ``standardization is the agreement to eliminate low value product differentiation.'' In this model, multiple (competitive) standards are indicative of a failure in the process if they really have no differentiation.

Oksala makes a number of points about how the current structure facilitates and supports this coordinated market before turning his attention back to the question of the implications for international standardization. He concludes that he still sees a number of reasons why the concept of a national body makes sense. These include:

1. . . . The concept of a ``national body'' provides a mechanism for these organizations [those that might not be able to afford the costs of direct participation] to participate in the decision making process in a more geographically local, if less direct, way.

2. Governments are national in interests, so their participation must be in that context. National bodies provide them a ``natural'' mechanism.

3. Some nominally technical issues are in fact national issues, because they impact national public sector or private sector interests. . . .

He concludes by suggesting that while technical contributions might be made by nations, corporations, or individuals, the approval process should operate in a much more formal way. He goes on to state:

I am not at all disturbed by the notion of an oligopoly. In fact I would say that the fewer top level organizations the better, because that's how we can reduce duplication and expense.

next up previous
Next: Looking Toward Consensus: Up: The Structure of IT Previous: Introduction

Michael Spring
Mon Nov 27 18:45:46 EST 1995