The Importance of Industry Collaboration in Open Standards

Guest Blog by Andrew Hutton, Head of Standardization at Unify, the Atos brand for collaboration service

The Importance of Industry Collaboration in Open Standards

Creating Open Standards is vital to ensure the customer or end user has control over their service and technologies, to ensure an active marketplace and to allow for healthy competition.

For a number of years, maybe too many, I have actively participated in Standards development communities and Industry Forums such as the IETF, W3C, SIP Forum, EENA etc. Through such participation we are able to improve and promote our expert knowledge and support our customers by engaging with external experts, learning from the wider industry and developing standards that meet a wide range of customer needs.

An example of this is our participation in the development of standards for WebRTC, a joint IETF and W3C initiative to bring real-time communication to the Web. A vital initiative to improve unified communications and ease the process of collaboration across workplaces.

For me the WebRTC initiative started  at IETF80 in Prague (March 2011) with a presentation by Harald Alvestrand of Google. This set out a vision where real-time communications becomes an integral part of the web with standards that promoted web speed innovation, made collaboration applications easier to deploy, and simply made the internet more useful to people.

For WebRTC to be a success two specific standardisation activities were necessary.

  • Web API’s had to be developed to allow applications to run in any browser. This became the responsibility of the W3C WebRTC Working Group.
  • The Real-Time protocols to enable media (voice, video, data) to flow between browsers needed to be defined. This became the responsibility of the IETF RTCWeb Working group. The name difference seemed like a good idea at the time.

Both the IETF and W3C follow an open standards approach to promote maximum participation from experts. This is very important as it allows everybody’s requirements to be taken into account and to allow the very best experts to participate, not just those backed by large corporate budgets. The result has been a really massive standardisation effort taking place over a number of years and it was really amazing to see so many industry experts collaborating to bring collective benefits.

At Unify we immediately recognised the importance of WebRTC to our business and customers. Therefore this was the start of a very interesting and enjoyable few years for me as I travelled the world and made many friends within the standardisation community collaborating with fellow experts irrespective of whether they represented direct competitors or partners.

Of course such a large standardisation initiative does not occur without some rather interesting team dynamics taking place but I believe that in the end participants are contributing for the common good of the industry and humanity as a whole. In the IETF for example progress is made on a basis of “rough consensus” as described in RFC 7287 and some level of compromise.

The results has been that all the major Web browsers now natively support real-time media with a standardised API allowing web application developers to extend the reach of collaboration tools into many new applications and environments. I certainly hope that the many flying miles have been offset by the new breed of web based collaboration tools such as Circuit that have resulted from this effort.

This joint IETF and W3C initiative is a great example of how we can amplify our internal teams by cooperating as an industry for the collective benefit of our customers. I am very proud to be part of such an initiative and to be able to work with the Atos Expert Community to extend our community externally.


Andrew Hutton

Andrew Hutton

Guest Blog by Andrew Hutton, Head of Standardization at Unify, the Atos brand for collaboration service

Andrew Hutton is the Head of Standardization at Unify, the Atos brand for collaboration services. He is part of the Atos Expert Community, providing expertise in telecom and network and contributing to innovation within the Group. If you would like to read more from our experts, please view the Atos blog here.

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