The dichotomy of open standards

J

JimPinto

Automation List :

In the industrial automation business, everyone agrees that standards would make a life a lot easier - everything would work together.

End-users continue to ask for interoperability as a means to achieve vendor independence. But, this the exact opposite of what all the primary suppliers want. Standards turn proprietary products into commodities, with lower profit margins.

The conflicting objectives continue to cause endless debate. To help clear the confusion, we must understand that technology developers need to recoup their investment through one of the following rules:

Rule 1
Licensing the technology. This may be through up-front fees for technology transfer, or per-copy sales of ASIC chips, hardware, software or firmware.

Rule 2
Making everything open and free, to expand involvement. The developer is far ahead on the learning curve and followers contribute to the leader's leadership.

Rule 3
Introducing "free" open technology to combat the entrenched position of a dominant market leader.

Read my latest article : Dichotomy of Open Standards on AutomationTechies.com at :
"http://www.automationtechies.com/sitepages/art451.php":http://www.automationtechies.com/sitepages/art451.php

See how Siemens (Profibus) and Rockwell (DeviceNet, ControlNet) utilize these three rules to expand their own market position.

Can you find any exceptions?

Cheers::

jim
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Jim Pinto
Tel : (858) 353-JIMP (5467)
email : [email protected]
web: www.JimPinto.com
San Diego, CA., USA
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A

Anonymous

Let's not forget FOUNDATION Fieldbus - an open protocol based on an open standard developed by a not-for-profit organization (Fieldbus Foundation). Can a standard be considered more open than this? How do developers recover their investments? By either licensing chipsets, hardware, etc or by providing "added benefits" to their devices (such as setup and diagnostic routines, better sensors, etc).

B

Bob Pawley

Jim

Please allow a small correction to your article "Dichotomy of Open Standards"

The US government "owned" the Internet only in the name of the US citizens, the people who paid for it.

What really happened is, the citizens of the United States of America, through their government, built and then gave away the rights and infrastructure of the Internet to the rest of the world.

On my own behalf - I thank you all.

Bob Pawley
250-493-6146

J

Jake Brodsky

> Rule 1
> Licensing the technology. This may be through up-front fees for technology transfer, or per-copy sales of ASIC chips, hardware, software or firmware.

Licensing? Does General Motors License us to use automotive technology? I find existing software license policies to be obnoxious, expensive, and frankly a ridiculous ploy for inadequate "technical support."

Think about it: Why is MODBUS so popular? Because for most practical purposes, it's NOT licensed.

> Rule 2
> Making everything open and free, to expand involvement. The developer is far ahead on the learning curve and followers

Define "open" and "free." This is the subject of many flames and heated arguments. In any case, what people really want isn't just open source (whatever that is). What they really seek is expertise, service, and some recourse in case the company who integrated thier products goes out of business or merely ceases support of the product. Many customers don't have the luxury of throwing out yesterday's computers.

> Rule 3
> Introducing "free" open technology to combat the entrenched position of a dominant market leader.

Again, beware of those terms, they're loaded. Market leaders get that way because they're very good at serving needs of industry. Presenting an open standard isn't going to break up an entrenched market. Performance will.

The reason operating systems such as Linux are taking off like wild fire is because the current economic models for software are inefficient, cumbersome, and impractical. Traditional ways of doing business treat product support as an afterthought.

As systems get smarter and more complex, you have to allow for people to take advantage of the fact that software/firmware, and network technologies are easy to copy, easy to install, and damned hard to support. What are these guys selling, really? Is it PLC hardware, or is it service for a PLC? I think many people are starting to think the latter...

B

Bob Pawley

If Foundation Fieldbus is the ultimate in "open" systems, I would expect all other fieldbus systems to melt away leaving 'Foundation" alone in the market place.

Is this happening??

Bob Pawley
250-493-6146

L

Lou Heavner

While I am an advocate of open systems, I'm not sure that "open" is necessary, let alone sufficient to guarantee market success or
domination. "Open" does change the business model, which is effectively another lag on the adoption rate. Remember how long it took to change from 3-15 to 4-20 and from minis to PCs.

Regards,

Lou Heavner

J

Jim Pinto

Jake Brodsky responded:

Jim Pinto wrote:
>>Rule 1
>>Licensing the technology. This may be through up-front fees for
>>technology transfer, or per-copy sales of ASIC chips, hardware,
>>software or firmware.

Jake Brodsky:
>Licensing? Does General Motors License us to use automotive technology?
>I find existing software license policies to be obnoxious, expensive, and
>frankly a ridiculous ploy for inadequate "technical support."

Jim Pinto:
Of course they don't license the customer! But, they would not allow other manufacturers to utilize their proprietary developments.

Jake :
>Think about it: Why is MODBUS so popular?
>Because for most practical purposes, it's NOT licensed.

MODBUS was made "free" because they followed Rule 2.

>> Rule 2
>> Making everything open and free, to expand involvement. The developer
>>is far ahead on the learning curve and followers contribute to the

Jake continues :
>Define "open" and "free." This is the subject of many flames and heated
>arguments. In any case, what people really want isn't just open source
>(whatever that is). What they really seek is expertise, service, and
>some recourse in case the company who integrated thier products goes out
>of business or merely ceases support of the product. Many customers don't
>have the luxury of throwing out yesterday's computers.

Jim :
Open : All the source-code (for sofware) readily available to all.
Free : No cost to utilize in any way you choose.

>> Rule 3
>> Introducing "free" open technology to combat the entrenched position
>> of a dominant market leader.

Jake :
>Again, beware of those terms, they're loaded.
> Presenting an open standard isn't going to break up an entrenched
> market. Performance will.

Jim :
Amen, brother Jake!

Cheers:
jim
----------/
Jim Pinto
email : [email protected]
web: www.JimPinto.com
San Diego, CA., USA
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J

Jiri Baum

Bob Pawley:
> What really happened is, the citizens of the United States of America,
> through their government, built and then gave away the rights and
> infrastructure of the Internet to the rest of the world.

Don't feel that bad about it - because it was US-based, for a long time (and possibly still) all international (trans-oceanic) links were paid for
by the other end.

Jiri
--
Jiri Baum <[email protected]> http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jirib
MAT LinuxPLC project --- http://mat.sf.net --- Machine Automation Tools

B

Bob Pawley

I'M baffled, of course, I am easily baffled, by the underlying sense of some postings to this list, that one should not have to pay money for the use of goods and services that they deem important enough to use.

There is nothing in this world that is free.Every aspect of life costs somebody something. Those who want 'free' goods and services, at least free for themselves, are merely expressing a desire to transfer the cost of these item onto other people.

Of course, others have paid for the explosive expansion of the net. Why should they not? After all they are the true beneficiaries of the benefits for which they are paying.

Money that we use to pay for these goods and services is merely a common, widely held method of conducting transactions. Money, in itself is neutral. It is neither good nor evil. If we didn't have money, cash, dollars, euros we would be forced to transact business by the number of cows that we could put on the counter.

The last empire that discredited money as a means of reward, dramatically failed. It continues to surprise, that all in the rest of the world hasn't learned this most basic of lessons. Most citizens of the old Soviet Empire - have - taken the lesson to heart. Cuba and China are merely laggards.

Surely a persons lifestyle would improve, if they worried more about making positive contributions to this world instead of spending so much time
looking for ways of living on the work and sweat of others.

Bob Pawley
250-493-6146

PhilCorso

Technology transfer for political gain occurred long before the internet was a gleam in some learned person's mind's eye!

Regrettably, in the '60's I was one of those "pawns" in the technology transfer game. Its purpose (I was told) was for the good of
resurrecting Europe. Ah the innocence of youth... How it is wasted by the young.

Regards,
Phil Corso, PE
(Boca Raton, FL)

J

Jiri Baum

This is getting off-topic.

> > Bob Pawley:
> > > What really happened is, the citizens of the United States of
> > > America, through their government, built and then gave away the
> > > rights and infrastructure of the Internet to the rest of the world.

Jiri Baum:
> > Don't feel that bad about it - because it was US-based, for a long time
> > (and possibly still) all international (trans-oceanic) links were paid
> > for by the other end.

Bob Pawley:
> Of course, others have paid for the explosive expansion of the net. Why
> should they not? After all they are the true beneficiaries of the
> benefits for which they are paying.

What an amazingly colonial attitude! There's nothing in Australia or the Old World that could possibly benefit Americans, so it's Right and Proper for Them to pay to connect to Us...

In reality, a trans-oceanic net link benefits both ends, so it would make sense for the cost to be shared by the two ends.

It is precisely this kind of refusal to meet others half-way that breeds a lot of the resentment against the US. Most people get over it, especially if they already speak the language, share the background etc. But it's still annoying.

> Money that we use to pay for these goods and services is merely a common,
> widely held method of conducting transactions. Money, in itself is
> neutral. It is neither good nor evil.

It presupposes a certain world-view. Anyway, I'm not really interested in arguing the ethics of money, others have made cogent arguments on the topic before me (see eg the Gospels, if you're Christian).

> If we didn't have money, cash, dollars, euros we would be forced to
> transact business by the number of cows that we could put on the counter.

This is a fallacy known as `strawman argument'. No-one has ever proposed replacing coinage with cows. The usual proposals centre around replacing money itself with something else (service to God, bettering oneself or society, egoboo through generosity, whatever).

Indeed, your last paragraph would seem to contain exactly such a proposal:

> Surely a persons lifestyle would improve, if they worried more about
> making positive contributions to this world instead of spending so much
> time looking for ways of living on the work and sweat of others.

Jiri
--
Jiri Baum <[email protected]> http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jirib
MAT LinuxPLC project --- http://mat.sf.net --- Machine Automation Tools

C

Curt Wuollet

Hi Lou

If you're looking for industry wide growth and expansion into new markets, the current typical business model is wrong from any reasonable point of view, being crafted to maximize individual company profit and support and enforce duplication of effort on a large scale. The user's motivation for jumping on bandwagons and innovating is minimized. Commonality and standardization are the obvious solution. Open Source, protocols, and cooperation may not be the whole answer, but I firmly believe they provide the least disasterous means of getting there. The other alternative is massive shake out and monopolization to enforce standardization like we have in the general computing industry. Which do you see as most beneficial?

Regards

cww

L

Lou Heavner

Curt,

I'm not arguing that business/ technology adoption looks like a FODT process. But it is widely accepted that most products and technologies go through some kind of cycle where sales/acceptance increases from initial
introduction through maturation and declines from maturity through obsolescence. There are many factors that will contribute to the overall
adoption rate. All I intended to say was that all other things being equal, which they never are, that a change in business model is a factor which will impede adoption. Even if the benefits are compelling, businesses must learn and apply the new model.

Bob P suggested that if FF was open and open was the best way, then FF should be dominating and other fieldbusses should be melting away. I think
FF is open, although I'm sure there are purists who would gladly debate the point. It is a standard though that can only be changed through specific mechanisms, which is different than GNU. I believe FF is having some good success. It is geared for the process industries and is complementary in many ways to other standards like Profibus-dp and DeviceNet. My point was
that even though FF is open and open is good, the adoption rate will not occur overnight. I recently visited a plant that still operated profitably with pnuematic instrumentation. It's industry is almost completely converted to DCS. DCS has been available and offered quantifiable benefits and good returns since the 1970's.

FF does offer potential benefits that are significant. However, if somebody expects to see a easonable return from simply swapping out 4-20ma wiring with FF and doing nothing else differently, they will be disappointed. It
reminds me of the story of the railroad (Union-Pacific?) who could have bought what became United Airlines when it was only a few barnstormers delivering mail, but they were in the railroad business, not the transportation business. In the case of automation, fieldbusses offer the potential of exploiting intelligent instrumentation and field devices in ways that were not possible before. Fieldbusses alone aren't enough. Field devices need to be designed to provide more useful information for the
digital busses to exploit. Host systems or HMIs need to be improved to more intelligently filter the additional data to make sure that information
overload doesn't create more problems than it solves. Fieldbusses are little more than a technology enabler. The economics of a retrofit are different than for a grass roots project. Most suppliers have a business to run and limited budgets for development. Some may find it in their best interest to preserve the status quo, but I think most suppliers to the process industries are not refusing to support FF. The reluctance you observe may be NIH or it may simply be a case of inertia and business
economics.

Automation is kind of a funny business. One view is that the better we do it, the less need there is for it. There is no doubt that some kinds of
jobs are eliminated by automation. The key is to look at it as allowing us to do more with our limited resources rather than just doing the same old thing with fewer resources. That is why automation professionals are moving into areas like supply chain management and looking at moving from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance and creatively looking for
opportunities with flexible manufacturing and economic optimization. Similarly, plants are looking at the potential for increased employee
empowerment. They don't necessarily want to get rid of employees, the want their employees to do more.

I am not omniscient enough to know how the industry will shake out or even how it should shake out to maximize benefits. I can speak from personal experience that growth in this business is possible, even in these difficult times. We are expanding into markets we didn't address or serve very well in the past. We don't have enough of the market to force anybody to do
anything. We embrace "open" to the extent that it facilitates our ability to expand our market by cooperating with complementary suppliers. It is inevitable that this also increases the potential for competition in some areas. We probably follow Jim P's rules for the most part, electing to share technology when it expands our markets (rules 2 & 3?) and protecting our technology where it is a competitive weapon for us (rule 1?). We make no apologies for seeking profits in the market place. I believe our ability to make profits is tied to our ability to serve our customers, not our ability to control our customers. Even if we aren't able to serve our customers as well as they or we would like, I think it is a lack of a compelling alternative rather than our ability to control them that keeps
them coming back. They have shown the willingness and ability in the past of switching when there was enough incentive. Frankly, I'm not trying to sell an open system or a closed system or even a fieldbus. I'm trying to sell an investment with an attractive financial return which just happens to incorporate some of those things.

Regards,

Lou Heavner
Emerson Process Management

H

Heavner, Lou [FRS/AUS]

Jim,

It seems to me that the biggest problem for everybody is the accelerated rate of technology turnover. Plants want to buy equipment that won't need to be replaced for 30 years, just like in the old days. But a supplier must rev his products everytime the technology advances or risk being Leapfrogged by competitors old and new.

It is only going to get worse if you believe we are at or near the upswing of the proverbial hockeystick. It will calm down if you believe there is nothing new left to invent/develop/advance technology. My own personal opinion is that we are near the upswing and we can't even imagine how technology will change in the next 20 years. Given the change in the past 20 years, maybe we are already on the upswing.

There are probably a few strategies for both suppliers and end users to deal with this problem. Standards can provide some buffering between plant needs for stability and supplier needs to aggressively adopt new technology. It will be painful at times for most of us to adapt to the changes, but adapt we will.

The benefits will be there. Just try taking away my wife's cell phone or my kids' DVD player or my laptop PC. Heck, every night my wife asks me, rhetorically, what people did before zip lock bags were invented.

I just hope we can keep politicians and bureaucrats from becoming involved in the development of technology except as prospective, rational, and undifferentiated buyers in the market place. When they begin meddling for political advantage, the rest of us usually suffer negative, unintended consequences.

Regards,

Lou Heavner - Austin, TX

J

R

Ralph Mackiewicz

> I'M baffled, of course, I am easily baffled, by the underlying sense
> of some postings to this list, that one should not have to pay money
> for the use of goods and services that they deem important enough to
> use.
>
> There is nothing in this world that is free.Every aspect of life costs
> somebody something. Those who want 'free' goods and services, at
> least free for themselves, are merely expressing a desire to transfer
> the cost of these item onto other people.

...snip...snip...

I've enjoyed your recent posts. The postings you are alluding to above have long since worn me down and I don't normally respond to them anymore. It is never explicitly stated, and there are always claims to the contrary, but the underlying attitude is hopelessly mired in the mistaken belief that profit is evil. Therefore, any company that undertakes an action that prevents others from using their property without paying because of a motivation to maximize the
profit generated by that property is really engaged in some kind of nefarious conspiracy to defraud users of their wealth. The theory is
that companies undertake these efforts (which most people call "commerce") motivated by a desire to "lock-in" customers, eliminate customer choices, destroy competition, and force the customer to pay exbortitant fees with complete and utter disregard for any concern for the customer. If these companies were only motivated by a desire for community instead, users would have all kinds of choices for virtually no cost (or little cost). Pursuing the "open" path becomes more of a religious crusade instead of a business proposition. This attitude is always just under the surface and is a real turn-off for
most users (and myself) who are also engaged in the nefarious pursuit of profit. Tragically, it distracts from a potentially useful effort.
John Dvorak of PC Magazine recently wrote "Is Linux Your Next OS?" and boiled it down to a simple one paragraph dilemma called "minimizing the cult factor".
( "http://www.pcmag.com/article/0,2997,s=1500&a=23172,00.asp":http://www.pcmag.com/article/0,2997,s=1500&a=23172,00.asp .

There. I knew it would only be a few posts before cww and I would disagree again.

Regards,
Ralph Mackiewicz
SISCO, Inc.

J

Jim Pinto

Lou Heavner wrote :

>It seems to me that the biggest problem for everybody is the
>accelerated rate of technology turnover. Plants want to buy
>equipment that won't need to be replaced for 30 years, just
>like in the old days.

Jim Pinto :
Bingo - you got it!
The old saying "it ain't broke, so don't fix it"
still applies. And many industrial automation customers don't want to spend more money, or take a risk, unless the "advantages" are proven first.

Lou Heavner :
>But a supplier must rev his products everytime the technology
>advances or risk being Leapfrogged by competitors old and new.

Jim Pinto :
Yes, and the major motivation for customers is also competition - price, performance, quality and delivery competition from hungry offshore competitors.

Lou Heavner :
>It is only going to get worse if you believe we are at or
>near the upswing of the proverbial hockeystick. It will calm
>down if you believe there is nothing new left to invent/develop
>/advance technology. My own personal opinion is that we are near
>the upswing and we can't even imagine how technology will change
>in the next 20 years. Given the change in the past 20 years,
>maybe we are already on the upswing.

Jim Pinto :
Sorry, Lou - technology will NOT slow down, it's speeding up!

Lou Heavner:
>There are probably a few strategies for both suppliers and end users
>to deal with this problem. Standards can provide some buffering between
plant needs for stability and supplier needs to aggressively adopt new
technology.

Jim Pinto:
Nope ! Standards - especially committee standards, slow you down and make your products into commodities! Only the leaders for a particular standard push that standard. The followers remain followers.

Lou Heavner:
>The benefits will be there. Just try taking away my wife's cell phone or
>my kids' DVD player or my laptop PC.

Jim Pinto:
Alas! The high volumes and ramp-rates in the consumer business cannot be compared with the conservatism of industrial automation customers.

You, you have raised some excellent points, providing good insight!

Thank you!

jim
----------/
Jim Pinto
Tel : (858) 353-JIMP (5467)
email : [email protected]
web: www.JimPinto.com
San Diego, CA., USA
----------/

C

Curt Wuollet

Hi Ralph,

Yes, we do disagree again but mostly because you mischaracterise the principles involved and like almost all of these types of posts, you exaggerate to paint us black. No one disagrees with capatalism, I believe we all expect to get paid for a days work. I run a business for profit occasionally, I am a republican, although I don't register these days. I am far from a socialist or communist. Profit is not evil. The whole thing is more about value. If you run out of gas, out in the middle of noplace, you walk to the only station for miles, and the guy charges you $50.00 for a gallon of gas and a can, I suppose you would smile and congratulate him for being a shrewd businessman. I suppose he would be even shrewder if he arranged for you to run out of gas or if he put a cup of water in the gas so you could experience his towing service and car repair service. Profit is not at all evil, any good or evil is all in how you earn it. And this sense that there are lines that should not be crossed is certainly not mine alone, it is present in almost everyone. Some people lose track of it when they are the guy getting the$50.00, yet find it again if they run out of gas.

I merely think we should be consistant in the view that someone is getting ripped off. We can then argue about whether it's right or wrong. It should be easy to gain a consensus.

It seems what we have is simply a disagreement in how much manipulation and extortion is allowable. You see, I think a person should have a free choice to buy or not buy additional products from a vendor based on their merit and value. Most customers think that way also, and can be quite disappointed when they find out that they have been locked in. You might change this to protecting their profits or some other crisp business euphemism, but the fact remains that the customer was intentionally wronged. You might even pretend that you don't know what I am talking about or change the subject to attitude or attitudes or even hint at political persuasion rather than accept that someone is doing something less than honorable in the name of profit.

If you wish to discuss the issues that's fine, but it quickly boils down to the fact that I think some of these tactics are just plain wrong and I'm trying to do things another way. Rather than flag waving or questioning my motives, why don't you explain what makes them right? The view that they are right because we wish to give
away software is illogical. The view that it is right because it makes them money is, well........

Regards

cww

R

Ralph Mackiewicz

Wrong!
While consensus driven standards do take more time to formulate (consensus is more difficult to acheive versus having a single party dictate the standard), but standards (by themselves) do not commoditize products. This is a common misconception. Communications standards in particular DO NOT commoditize the products that implement them.

The typical example I have seen to justify this concept uses some simple product like a screw. If every manufacturer used different size and thread standards then screws would have brands, not be commodities. Widespread acceptance of size and thread standards commoditized screws. BUT: a screw is a simple and trivial thing to standardize. This analogy does not hold for things functionally complex like PLCs, drives, etc.

In order for a standard to commoditize a product it must make the products interchangeable. The 4-20ma standard by itself did not commoditize temperature or pressure transducers. Completely functional standardization of not only the interface but also of the size, functionality, pinouts, packaging, etc. is what makes the simple versions of these transducers commodities.

Communications standards make things interoperable, they do not make things interchangeable. Interchangeability is what makes things commodities. Interoperability simply reduces the costs for people to use products, it does not make them interchangeable.

Regards,
Ralph Mackiewicz
SISCO, Inc.