April 21, 2008
IP Standards: No room for Mr. Nice Guy
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Bill Martin: So, Kathy should not blame herself at all. She was the only one who was driving things, by the end.
Ralph von Vignau: Especially after some of us left VSIA. But we felt if we couldn't improve it, we needed to leave it.
Peggy Aycinena: Well, then should we blame Ralph? [Laughter]
Bill Martin: Not at all. Again, VSIA was set up a long time ago for failure. Even 5-to-7 years ago, it was already on the railroad track to disaster. Kathy managed to land it safely and without injury to people. She should be credited completely for that.
Victor Berman: Kathy did the right thing, because like a lot of groups, VSIA could have continued on forever.
Bill Martin: Victor, you were there when we said, let’s get Kathy in there and see [if it can be fixed]. But after you left, Stan Krolikowski and I talked about the possibilities. VSIA was a non-profit, but could still cover its expenses. They were still bringing in new members and all that, but it was a very tough go and a tough decision.
Peggy Aycinena: So, moving on. What’s great and good in standards today?
Ralph von Vignau: SPIRIT, for one. The main reason for SPIRIT, which we’ve made very clear, is that if people want to contribute, they have to give money, their presence, and engineering. That’s the major difference between SPIRIT and VSIA, for right or wrong. Also, we’ve limited structurally the number of companies who can partake in working groups. That allows the groups to be more effective.
Things are made very clear at SPIRIT – it’s a very clear project-driven approach. You have a job to do, a timeframe within which to do it, and you need to get it done within that time. Most people are much happier this way because they feel the ROI and their time are respected, and because it gets results. These are the real differentiators at SPIRIT, and a lot of it comes from what we learned from the VSIA experience.
Ian Mackintosh: So, I would focus on OCP-IP to see what’s great and good today. A lot of things were learned from what didn’t work at VSIA. That’s the good news. That experience has spawned better thinking about how things are done, and I can see the results around this table today. In OCP-IP, for instance, we’ve done very well on infrastructure, development, incorporating contributions from the working groups and corporate members, and from collaborations with other associations and universities.
As far as time to market [with our standards], we’ve really done well there as well, driven by the strategies of need and greed. We don’t do anything as an organization unless somebody wants it and somebody else is working on it. We’ve got flexibility built into our operations and our relationships. And – none of those relationships are standard!
Peggy Aycinena: So there are no standards in relationships? [Laughter]
Ian Mackintosh: No, we find the work gets us across that interface, [particularly] as technical excellence has always been our primary goal. And, we have also always cared about our website communication – we’ve always wanted that to be [an integral part] of our infrastructure, and it has worked for us.
Warren Savage: I’ll start with Ralph and Ian as being great and good things in standards. These two guys are driving some of the most successful standards today, and they’re providing a showcase for how to do it. And I agree with Ralph, these successes are built on various trails at VSIA. It’s from their involvement there, and what they learned there, that they’ve been able to push things forward.
Of course, there are some de-facto industry standards in place today, the most famous being the ARM AMBA bus, but it’s not a consortium putting it together. It was put together by one company, but once out in the market it’s been a useful standard for all to use. ARM still retains ownership of the standard, however, yet that seems successful in the market.
In my sphere of work, I’m working with Infineon on some automotive standards, trying out propositions on the market in a similar way. [The lesson is], there is room in the market for some proprietary standards being put out into the public sphere, but there’s also room for collaborative standards.
Ralph von Vignau: I would challenge the AMBA standard [analogy]. I see a marked difference between OCP and AMBA. If ARM didn’t have almost a monopoly with everything including mobile phones, would they have had the success with their standard?
Warren Savage: Everything is related to an ecosystem, as you’re aware from Phillips. Remember the PI Bus, which was European and got only so far. ARM took the ecosystem and was an early IP player. If you were a processor [provider], it was a natural place for the standard to grow. It was almost the same way with Intel and the PCI Bus. Before, there were lots of busses with no standardization and it was very expensive until Intel came out with their standard.
Bill Martin: Yes, and it [preceded] a huge sale of Intel processors. It was the same thing with ARM. The end goal was [dominance] in the market.
Ian Mackintosh: I see there are basically two ways that standards evolve. I call it “The Rule of the Most Fit.” Absent of competition, the PCI standard or GDS II are intriguing. I call those “Force Feeding.” I see SPIRIT, Si2, and OCP-IP building the two types.
Victor Berman: The AMBA Bus is a good example of where there was a proprietary standard, and there was a vision plus selfish purposes to open it up, but what becomes the repository for maintaining it? Similarly with VSIA, they had ideas in a particular area, but become diverse, unfocused and hard to manage. So a number of organizations have sprung up, but what happens next?
This is where IEEE comes in. It has several unique and beneficial characteristics. It has name-brand recognition. It has processes that are well understood and continually evolving. It deals with issues that are real in the industry – IP rights, how to promote technology – and IEEE has been very effective.
One of the reasons it’s effective is because IEEE is not a monopoly. At VSIA, there was one small board trying to manage different technologies, not all of which they understood. [On the other hand], the governing bodies of IEEE do not try to meddle in the technology. They specifically try to have working groups in particular areas where the expertise lies. As they evolve or shrink, IEEE is perfectly happy for working groups to disappear, even as the parent organization remains in place.
In VSIA, where did you find the documentation? And [there was always the question], was the organization going to disappear? We’ve never had that issue with the IEEE. There’s something to be said for individual, focused organizations to become feeder organization for IEEE, [particularly] at a certain point of maturity. An organization can hand off their stuff that way, and have it formalized and made open.
There are some of these characteristics in SPIRIT. They’re effective by being narrow. That has always been a reasoned and widely discussed aspect of the organization, but when you get to a certain point where you want broader adoption, what then? There’s a good reason for an innovative organization that can do marketing and can reach out to companies to understand their pain points. But, you get into trouble when those organizations want to remain [in place] forever.
Ralph von Vignau: Also, one of the things we learned from VSIA – from the start at SPIRIT, we didn’t produce the standard, but fed into the IEEE. VSIA tried to make its own standards, but IEEE is recognized and has as a certain feeling, even in certain countries. A small standard group can’t produce a global standard.
Victor Berman: Sometimes it is better to remain small.
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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.