The path through which open source projects become industry standard is about to become a lot smoother. The Joint Development Foundation (JDF), an arm of The Linux Foundation, this week announced it has been approved to become an official submitter to the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
ISO and IEC previously came together to create a unified process for submitting proposals to establish technology standards. The JDF was created to provide a consistent corporate and legal framework for launching open source projects being advanced under the auspices of The Linux Foundation.
Mike Dolan, vice president of strategic programs at the Linux Foundation, said now that the JDF has been recognized as an official submitter by ISO and IEC, it can represent open source projects that also want to establish a formal international standard. The first open source project to be submitted by the JDF is OpenChain, which provides a specification for achieving compliance using open source software within the context of a software supply chain.
Historically, there’s been a significant amount of tension between open source projects and standards bodies. Standards have often been defined by vendors as part of an effort to promote the adoption of a technology by promising customers a level of interoperability to avoid vendor lock-in. However, many of those standards have been so loosely defined that it wasn’t really feasible for customers to switch vendors without incurring significant cost.
The open source community has pursued a different approach to standards. Whichever project gains the most support from developers becomes a de facto standard. That approach has benefited organizations because adherence to a defined set of application programming interfaces (APIs) makes it comparatively simple to replace one distribution of a project such as Linux or Kubernetes with another. With endorsement by organizations such as ISO and IEC, many more of those de facto standards may become actual standards. That’s significant because there are still many organizations such as government agencies that are required to acquire technologies that comply with an official standard.
To create an official international standard the JDF committed to a process for developing specifications that are neutral to all contributors. The specification must be developed with sufficient industry participation to ensure the resulting work is representative of industrywide consensus, and the specification must be formed in accordance with standard Publicly Available Specification (PAS) editing standards so that each specification is easily understood.
It’s too early to say how this commitment on the part of the JDF will be received among the open source community. Many of them have long given up considering some standards bodies to be relevant. However, as the divide between the open source community and standards bodies continues to narrow, the impact an open source project might have on the state of IT could become a lot more profound.