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In the midst of digital transformation, open standards are here to help

Ever more companies turn to using open standards and ditch proprietary software for open-source equivalents, and with good reasons.
Ever more companies turn to open standards

Standards allow for inter-operability and make IT administration a whole lot easier. But some of them are proprietary and can therefore be curtailed by their corporate sponsors at will – exposing users to sudden changes. This is a risk ever fewer companies are willing to take. Especially when there is ever increasing pressure to transform processes to make use of digital innovation, the flexibility and sustainability of IT investments is business critical. As an open source company, we at ownCloud know from first-hand experience that there are great advantages to using open standards:

1. Independence from dominant vendors.

Developed and maintained by nonprofit organizations like OASIS, the Internet Society and its multiple standard bodies, ISO or IEEE, Open standards prevent dominant companies from imposing their often one-sided interests upon technological progress in a given field. Rather, a broad and diverse discourse often leads to a market of ideas and more innovative developments, benefiting whole sectors. Some good examples of this are WebDav for file access, OpenID Connect for user authentication and WOPI as an interface for browser based office suites.

2. Availability guaranteed

Open standards are accessible for all the players in a given market, free of charge. Proprietary technology that has reached the status of de facto standard on the other hand often incur eyewatering license fees. Also, its corporate sponsors can put up legal and technical hurdles for potential licensees.

3. Unconditional interoperability

Since all software solutions based on a common open standard are compatible with each other, there is no vendor lock-in. Developers and company are thus free to simply replace parts of their architecture if needed.

4. Freedom to develop

When grounding programming solutions on proprietary standards, developers can’t be sure whether they will be able to publish their work in the future, what fees will be charged and who will buy the patent rights. Open standards do not restrict the building of extensions. This means the developers are completely free and unimpeded in their quest to develop their products

Some examples

Open source software traditionally embraces open standards across the whole stack, from the operating system to the web server, from the programming framework to libraries and APIs. There are office suites like LibreOffice, Groupware solutions like Kopano and OpenXchange. There are team chats like Rocket.Chat, comprehensive communication protocols like Matrix, video conferencing tools like Jitsi and BigBlueButton and project management tools like Kanboard. As a data hub, ownCloud is an efficient file platform for all these services, and at the same time a secure access platform ready to safeguard sensitive data in compliance with strict protocols.

Bonus: Auditability

Open-source software has another benefit – its source code is transparent and can thus be easily audited, so companies can see for themselves whether there really are no backdoors and whether open standards are decently and usefully implemented. This is especially important in today’s fast paced business environment, where competitive IT infrastructure and innovative IT solutions make all the difference by enabling advanced process optimization and seamless workflows across markets and time zones.

Independent and open standards and interfaces are the basis of interoperability and competitive efficiency these days, because they enable companies to build networks that are both highly available and agile, both flexible and easy to maintain, and completely without vendor lock-ins.

Tobias Gerlinger, ownCloud CEO


December 3, 2020

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