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Wednesday
Aug072013

OSI and the Internet: Gone but not without influence

This is one of the best 'historical' pieces on the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI), some of the people who were involved, and how much of what the 'internet way' of defining and deploying protocols does, in fact owe to the efforts of the OSI community.  

If you have 10 minutes, and want to understand how current 'standards' wars (...yeah, I'm lookin at you OpenStack and AWS…) bring knowing nods from those who went through the TCP/IP - OSI tussle, read this.  It's worthy technical history.

OSI: The Internet That Wasn’t - IEEE Spectrum:

By the mid-1990s, the Internet had become the de facto standard for global computer networking. Cruelly for OSI’s creators, Internet advocates seized the mantle of “openness” and claimed it as their own. Today, they routinely campaign to preserve the “open Internet” from authoritarian governments, regulators, and would-be monopolists.
In light of the success of the nimble Internet, OSI is often portrayed as a cautionary tale of overbureaucratized “anticipatory standardization” in an immature and volatile market. This emphasis on its failings, however, ­misses OSI’s many successes: It focused attention on cutting-edge technological questions, and it became a source of learning by doing—­including some hard knocks—for a generation of network engineers, who went on to create new companies, advise governments, and teach in universities around the world.
Beyond these simplistic declarations of “success” and “failure,” OSI’s history holds important lessons that engineers, policymakers, and Internet users should get to know better. Perhaps the most important lesson is that “openness” is full of contradictions. OSI brought to light the deep incompatibility between idealistic visions of openness and the political and economic realities of the international networking industry. And OSI eventually collapsed because it could not reconcile the divergent desires of all the interested parties. What then does this mean for the continued viability of the open Internet?

 

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