Open standards will save us billions on tech projects, says Europe

Open standards will save us billions on tech projects, says Europe

Summary: The vice-president of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, believes that avoiding vendor "lock-in" is the best way to a fruitful IT future.

TOPICS: EU, Government

The European Commission wants to warn companies of the dangers of over-reliance on a single vendor for their computing requirements and in particular the scourge of vendor "lock-in".

To guide companies through the IT purchasing maze, the Commission has drawn up an "against lock-in" approach that it believes could save the EU's public sector more than  €1.1bn. For example, it said open tendering procedures can attract increased numbers of bidders with better value bids: doubling the number of bidders typically lowers contract size by nine percent.

European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes was quite forthright in her belief in the benefits of open standards which, "create competition, lead to innovation, and save money", she said. She believes that the guide will help "national authorities grab every opportunity for innovation and efficiency".

The UK, it appears, is ahead in this particular game as the Cabinet Office published its own "Open Standards Principles" in April.

This latest initiative is part of the EC's Digital Agenda for Europe, an initiative which it will run through to the end of 2020.

The strategy is based on the principle that it is better to work with a variety of standards when implementing IT rather than specifying a single tool, system, or product. But many organisations either lack the expertise to decide which standards are relevant to their IT needs, or fear that the initial costs of change would be too costly and might lead to loss of data, and as a result, remain locked into their IT systems or into a relationship with only one provider.

The EC guide said long-term planning could help replace systems that are "lock-in" prone with standards-based alternatives; this should compensate for higher up-front costs when replacing systems.

Overall the EC wants to take advantage of a "greater use of standards (which) makes it easier to exchange data between public systems". 

Topics: EU, Government


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • Sooner or later the free lunch will not be there...

    When are people going to realize that using open software will actually turn our industry into a industry nobody wants/cannot get a job in and investors avoid because there is no money to be made.

    Additionally talking about vendor lock in is a load of rubbish. Most software companies offer the ability to lodge their source with lawyers and other means to protect their customers.

    How many companies actually want to alter the software?

    What is really meant is 'application' lock-in and this occurs in open source as well are proprietary sofware.
    • Re: How many companies actually want to alter the software?

      Ah, the sealed-bonnet fallacy: why provide an openable bonnet on your car, when 99% of customers have no desire to tinker with the engine?
  • Yea, let's buy open source!

    Good luck getting data between all these open source systems. I remember the old days of mainframes where we had file feeds with dissimilar data that had to be cleansed before it could be used. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
    • Re: Good luck getting data between all these open source systems

      Funnily enough, one of the guiding principles of Open Source is their solid embrace of open data formats. You see, we Open Source developers believe that the customer owns their own data.
  • I don't think they mean opensource as App changes

    I don't think they mean opensource as user abiltiy to change application source code
    I think the meaning is using a propriaetory data format.
    like only working with MSWord .doc/.docx format for word processing
    or using something like MS BMP for images
    • Agreed

      I have always felt that our data should be based on standards, open standards. There is no need to be secretive about how the DOCX format is built. Yeah, Microsoft can keep their Word program and all its binaries. But the DOCX format should be open... completely open. Expand that to every other proprietary file format. Each one should completely open the specs for file formats. Then let companies and programmers build programs that can manipulate the data in these formats.

      As an example using DOCX and a few word processing programs, if AbiWord, LibreOffice, WordPerfect, Lotus WordPro and Microsoft Office Word all could open the same DOCX file and get the same results and then save back to the DOCX format and the subsequently saved document could be opened and manipulated by any of these programs, there would be no vendor lock-in. This would be a win for all consumers.
      • well that is tru, it would help customers but what in it for the company.

        I think that it's not the format that needs to be open source.
        we simply need for all application to include an open source converter that would allow data export into open format as needed.
        similar to what we now have in medical field i.e. HIPPA complaence.

        you can create your application / device in any way you want, but any and all info/Data MUST be in a universal compartible format and ready for exchange across all and any devices/applications.
        • Re: we simply need for all application to include an open source converter

          How do you force a proprietary software vendor to provide such a thing? After you've already bought their application and put all your data into it, do you really think they will take seriously a threat to throw away all your own work?
      • Just say no DOCx.
  • How about the storage data?

    does it support RAID 10? Have you visited this site i heard they have lots of info.
    Karen Olsen
  • On the same note

    They should not spread their IT spend among to many vendors which has the opposite affect of creating to many disparaged systems and uneven support across a given environment.
    • Nonsense

      Like competition (you know, the basis of the free market system. Hello?) is a bad thing.

      Some people should let grownups read their posts before posting.
      • Free Market

        Actually if you look at the last 50 years yes the free market is a bad thing it has concentrated more and more wealth into fewer hand and unbalanced the world economy,so no more and more money is busy producing nothing but more money not any goods or jobs.The system is collapsing before your eyes and if continues down this path an even larger and more devastating economic crash than we recently say is inevitable.
  • Bunch of MS appologists

    All it would take is for companies to decide to use the open document formats already in place, including with MS Office. DOCX is simply MS's ongoing attempt to stay ahead of standards by making ongoing changes, so users can justify buying the bloated non-standard Office.
    If MS, or anybody else, refuses to comply with the standards already in place (I'll even give them .DOC) they should not qualify for purchases using public money.
    Same goes for Apple. Its about time buyers realized they are not doing their constituents any favors locking them in to a single vendor, no matter how big they are.
  • Truth in Lending, Media Hype, and Value...

    You know, I have been reading through all of the responses and this proprietary vs. open-source discussion has been going on for decades. I believe there is value in both environments. It all depends on your business needs. The other part of this is the fact that, as inferred earlier, nothing is free. Open source solutions excel for businesses that manage all aspects of their IT and have invested in their IT staffs so that they have the organic skills to manage the resulting, “company-specific” solutions. Maintaining these resources (people and their own proprietary solutions) costs money. There is no way around it. On the other hand, purchased proprietary solutions offer firms that do not want to invest some facets of their IT tested solutions, and as long as a company performs the proper due diligence there is nothing wrong with proprietary products. In reality the purchase of proprietary, shrink-wrapped applications could easily be described as a form of outsourcing wherein you off load huge costs for testing and development.
    In the end, I am a fan of open standards but, I recognize that many of they represent a “least common denominator” situation where advanced capabilities offered by a particular vendor are not supported. That’s why companies invest in developing the features and why it is protected as company specific, intellectual property. If it were not, these very companies would not exist.
    And finally… the EU is not the shining example portrayed by the media. The real reason for their crusade against proprietary software vendors revolves around the fact that they are not EU companies. Let me tell ya… if Microsoft, Google, Oracle, etc… were German or French firms, they would protect just as vigorously as Airbus.