Let’s see if things go better this afternoon. We’re going to have a few debates in the afternoon, starting with one about the importance of open standards for cloud computing. Sam Johnston of Google (his blog is here) starts the debate, speaking in favor of the importance of open standards. After he’s had 15 minutes to present his case, Benjamin Black will have 15 minutes to make the opposite case. Then there will be 15 minutes of back and forth, between the speakers and with a “jury” and audience members.
The “for” argument isn’t very interesting to me, because I already agree with what he’s saying. I need to hear some contrary information when the opposition comes on. Which is now starting. Black starts by pointing to the dysfunctional processes often behind defining and agreeing to standards with a Monty Python video (the fish-slapping dance). Then: what’s important? Utility. If it doesn’t solve my problem, I don’t care about standards. Then interoperability. Then being free of vendor lock-in (independence). Those three aren’t all equal.
Some problems don’t need go past utility. For example, SQL (in reality, not in theory). His point seems to be that there is no meaningful interoperability between SQL implementations, yet we still use SQL. Well, I don’t think I agree with the premise there. A lack of perfect interoperability doesn’t mean that there isn’t any interoperability!
Suppose something new comes out with massive utility and a lot of imperfection. People will adopt it rapidly. Then you get lots of competition and exploration, and lots of “standards” that are all different from each other (think networking in the early days). Eventually, the different islands begin to interoperate with each other as demanded by their users. That’s where the cloud is now. So it’s too early to define what the correct standards should be.
That happens in the next stage: maturation. That’s where we worry about independence, not earlier. Successful standards formalize what is already true. “Standards are side effects of successful technology.” “All successful standards are de facto standards.”
All good points. But is there nothing in cloud computing ready to benefit from the independence? His next point is that, even if so, it’s too early. Because as things become more standardized, the rate of innovation has to drop, and we aren’t ready for that to happen in the cloud. Very good quote: Standardize too soon, and you lock in to the wrong thing.
Excellent speaker, and I agree with his points. But not necessarily all his conclusions. Mainly, I think some cloud issues are more mature that he seems to be saying, and are ready to improve interoperability, and perhaps even independence. But he makes a great case.
There’s some back and forth and questions next. It seems that they favor the “against” position. But it seems that the question has changed a bit over the talk. Now people are agreeing that a priori standards are bad. But the question was about whether any standards were needed.
The next debate is on whether Open APIs are enough to prevent vendor lock-in. George Reese will argue that they are; James Duncan will say that they aren’t. Of course, the question starts with trying to determine just what would make an API “open”. But that’s dismissed early on as not the core question. It seems that the “pro” advocate is arguing against it: even if the APIs are open, if the platform itself isn’t, then you can’t take your top layer and move it elsewhere.
I don’t find this debate very interesting, though. Nothing really new or useful for me. But the first debate was excellent. It’s a good format.
On the plus side, the conference Wi-fi is kind of working now. It’s not great, but not dead, either. I notice a lot of non-conference access points are now gone; I wonder if interference, rather than bandwidth, was the major problem.