Review: Cargill

25 July 1997.

Review: Carl F. Cargill:
Open Systems Standardization, A Business Approach;
Prentice Hall, 1997, 328 pp.

Review by Gio Wiederhold
Category K.1 The Computer Industry
Keywords: Standardization, Standards, Operating Systems, Open Systems.

The subtitle of this book is crucial, it discusses throughout two business aspects of standardization , namely the organizational issues in the standards development process, and even more, the interaction of business and standards in terms of market control and influence on the standard setting and acceptance process. It is hence much broader than one would expect from a book focusing on open system standards. Topics ranging from setting standards internally within an organization to the problems that the International Standards Organization must face in a politicized world, where multi-national corporations can play games with national votes, are addressed. About one third of the book is devoted to brief descriptions of about two dozen standards organization, their role and future.

Its breadth and erudition makes the book a pleasant read for a weekend when one wants to mix work and pleasure. For instance, the comparison of open systems with the tragic figure of the medieval French knight Roland certainly expands one's mind. To profit from this book some prior or current involvement with standards activities is useful, since many concepts and some terms discussed are likely to be vague without having experienced standards activity and able to supply context.

The history of the various open systems consortia are, except for the Object Management Group (OMG) and the final merge of the remainder, the Open Group, just obituaries, so that, in the author's concluding words, "... the moral of this chapter is unclear." The principal product of OMG, the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) is not even mentioned, and the Open Group is not even indexed, although `knight' is.

Because of its style, this book does not provide specific information about standards or even the standards setting process. It does not provide a guideline to readers approaching standards from a pragmatic point-of-view. In that sense the insights it presents can complement the recent book by Libicki: Information Technology Standards; reviewed in ACM Computing Reviews, Vol.37 No.4, April 1996, 9604-0262.