Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary evidence by Mr Graham N Spittle

  In addition to the transcripts, Lord Oxburgh asked me to write a paragraph on standards as they are key to planning and implementing any infrastructure. It is important that there is clear understanding of the difference between standards—open and proprietary—and that you can only build truly flexible infrastructure with open standards.


  In the computing world, standards are created when there is widespread acceptance of certain technologies by a broad base of users or people. There are essentially two categories of standards.

1.   Proprietary Standards

  These are where the standard is based on the proprietary technology owned by a single company. While proprietary implies vendor lock-in, those standards can meet customer needs as their wide usage indicates. But there is an inherent danger in this type of standard as it is governed by a single company and can become a control point that limits options for users and competition.

2.   Open Standards

  They are specifications that enable the construction of universal building blocks for software and solution development. They are essential to the creation of flexible and interoperable IT systems. Their definition takes place within a community of cooperating businesses (end-users of the technology) and competing IT vendors (the suppliers). Open standards are developed and managed by independent entities or standard bodies that facilitate agreement between the parties.


  Defined by IEEE as: "the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged". Whilst interoperability can be achieved using proprietary standards, the best way to protect investments and ensure a range of options in the future is to pursue solutions relying on open standards.

  Businesses and organisations that make open standards a requirement for IT investments can not only avoid "vendor-lock" and preserve future choice, they can build systems that can integrate heterogenous (multiple vendors and technologies) components for substantially greater efficiency, scalability and connectivity to partners, suppliers, customers and others. Alternatively those businesses and organisations that are complacent or compromise on open standards today may expect to be faced with fewer choices and higher costs in the future.

Graham N Spittle

2 April 2003

previous page contents

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003