By webmink on Aug 28, 2006
As I have been preparing for speaking events recently, I have started to realise that there's a common thread joining all the projects I have been involved in over the last decade. In 1995, I was one of the five instigators of the use of the Java platform at IBM; in 1997 I was IBM's spokesman for the newly emerging XML standard; in 2001 I was involved at Sun in what would become known as Service Oriented Architectures (SOA); today, I have a deep interest in OpenDocument format (ODF).
It may seem surprising that all these are connected, but they are. As I have been explaining now for a decade, the source of many costs in IT infrastructures result from different organisational units with no (or distant) shared management being forced to create technical interdependencies in order to co-operate. The less technology we are forced to share in order to co-operate, the less we will have to pay to get started and the less we will need to pay in the future to maintain - or remove - the ability. We need to stay loosely-coupled - connected by the least possible thread of technology.
What forces us to share technology in order to collaborate? Closedness. When solutions are single-vendor, when they use formats and APIs that aren't open (either by being non-standard or predicating use of a closed technology), using them for co-operative activities couples us to each other at a technology level. The opposite of this, promoting free choice and loose technology coupling, is open standards implemented as open source in open communities.
When we are loosely-coupled in this way, we can make our own decisions about what technologies to use within our own span of control, and you can make your own decisions on all these things, yet we are still able to co-operate over the things that matter to us. So each of the things I listed above express this principle. Java technology decouples applications from platforms; XML decouples data from applications; SOA decouple processing end-points; ODF decouples desktop data from the tool that maintains it. Each of these things potentially enables the freedom to leave.