The Vendor's tale (August 1996)

We get inside the head of an imaginary software developer to see how standards, interoperability and objetcs look from the commercial side of the fence.

Just imagine that you are a software vendor working in the E&P sector. A Schlumberger or a Landmark - or should I say Halliburton. Looking down the product line, you see a variety of tools. Some developed in house, perhaps rather a long time ago, with proven algorithms developed in Fortran on proprietary data structures. Others may be more recent, perhaps acquired in a take over of a younger company, with brave new software, incorporating all the latest politically correct objects and techniques. As you scan these products, you will know that some, probably the older ones, are the company's real breadwinners. They may be written in Fortran, but they have undergone years of improvement and adaptation as a result of feedback from clients. They may not integrate with other products too well, they may not be pc, but by golly, as a result of years of work, they work damn well!

Pain in the butt!

Now what do you thing of an outside "standards" organization which comes along and starts out by saying that the data model, the heart of your program, is unacceptable, and needs changing to be XYZ compliant. You would regard them as a serious pain in the butt n'est-ce pas? Unfortunately for you, this standards organization is funded, and presumably supported by a substantial number of your clients (you thought they were happy!). Other support for the standards comes from an even more important sector - your potential new clients, who are ready to sign that check just as soon as you make your software XYZ compliant. How do you feel now? Well now you probably feel that a cleft stick has caught up with a sensitive part of your anatomy. Just as your clients finally decided to give up developing software in-house and focus on their core business, they come back to tell you how to write software via a standards committee.

Damage limitation

Of course you grin and bear it, join the standards committee yourself, and start the long drawn out process of damage limitation. A little bit of agreement here, a modicum of dissent there, just enough to dampen their ardour. But you wake up in the middle of the night every now and then and think "No they can't be serious, they want us to tear the heart out of our application, put it back 10 years, and then moan because it isn't performant anymore, and there are a zillion new bugs, what are these guys trying to do to us?"

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