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The open standards movement has all the earmarks of bringing as monumental a change to the IT industry as both the personal computer and the Internet did in their own distinctive ways.

Much of today’s buzz concerning open standards centers around the differing strategies of two industry giants: Microsoft committed to its successful, proprietary Windows operating system, and IBM using its clout to back open standards. Both companies have the power to influence and at times, even dominate the industry, but neither can deter a major shift in the computing model once it takes on a life of its own, as the Internet did, and moves the entire industry in a whole new direction.

The open standards movement represents the latest of these major shifts. Microsoft still dominates the market for server operating systems, but the latest report by the market research firm IDC shows Linux gaining more ground with 23 percent of the market share in 2002. Both operating systems will continue to increase their market share through 2007, IDC predicts.

Government bodies throughout the world, including the UK, the city council of Munich, and the state of Massachusetts, are taking steps toward adopting open standards as a cost-effective IT option.

Therefore, independent software vendors can’t remain on the sidelines but should catch the wave and opt for open standards if they want to remain viable in an industry highly competitive for both big and small companies alike.

Why is the open standards movement gaining traction? It solves two fundamental problems the industry has faced since its inception: controlling costs and simplifying IT management. These are issues for both the businesses using IT and the software vendors developing IT applications.

Here’s how open standards lower costs, and ease IT management for business customer and software vendors alike:

With open standards, software can be developed only once and then can run on any IT platforms in use, anywhere. This lowers costs for the software vendor, consuming fewer resources to build a product and then avoiding the cost of maintaining it separately on each platform that a potential customer uses. Just as important, it lowers the cost for the business customer. New software can be added without making extensive changes to existing systems, needing new hardware, or impacting the overall infrastructure.

A midsize Northeastern healthcare firm, for example, experienced the benefits of building its HR portal on open standards, and then independently selecting the best performing server platform for its application. When it load-tested both the Linux and Windows platforms, it found Linux was able to handle 60 percent more customers. The firm was able to quickly deploy its application on Linux without spending more time or money to make modifications.


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