Amid the convergence of technologies across the IT stack, a host of products emerging from the world of open source, XML, and Web services are challenging traditional notions of open solutions.
IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and Nokia are passionate about their "open" mantra in the quest to address interoperability concerns. But the strategy itself is under threat of collapsing under its own weight.
While many vendors ascribe to all the right Internet-based open standards, layers of proprietary technology that limit a company's ability to build a genuinely open infrastructure can lurk beneath the surface.
For example, companies can still find themselves locked into certain components of legacy ERP systems, despite the proliferation of Web services, said Ismael Ghalimi, chief strategy officer at San Mateo, Calif.-based Intalio and chairman of business process management initiative BPMI.org.
Part of the solution lies with a number of standards-making bodies that rose to prominence over the past two years. "I hope that WSI and Liberty Alliance would work together and really come up with a stable stack for Web services," Ghalimi said.
"There are a lot of people motivated by standards. But the choices of proprietary and open standards just isn't what it used to be," said John Rymer, a senior analyst at Giga Information Group, in
"We used to talk about open systems compared to very proprietary systems like the AS/400 where you could only get it from one vendor. It just isn't the same type of discussion any more," Rymer said.
Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC, based in
Yet the march towards a convergence of technologies across IT infrastructures continues unabated. Linux, XML, Apache, MySQL and PHP and other open source technologies are "huge enablers of convergence", according to Michael Tiemann, CTO of Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat.
Ten years ago the vast majority of corporate shops had fragmented environments made of up of jagged hardware and software pieces that could never be pieced together smoothly. If they did not buy everything from a single vendor they had to live with the fragmentation.
"When the people are invested with the power to control their own destiny, they take an interest," Tiemann said, reflecting the aspirations of the Linux community at large.
Yet non-Linux vendors are also trying to glue together dozens of fragmented pieces. This is particularly true among the J2EE-based application server vendors, and is increasingly evident in the enterprise applications space.