Commentary: Big-name e-business consortium faces stiff hurdles

The Business Internet Consortium faces potentially lethal challenges at a time when e-business standards consortia are aplenty.

2 min read
By Whit Andrews, Gartner Analyst

E-business standards consortia are aplenty in an era when open source is all the rage and the lack of interoperability is a glaring flaw in the magical vision of a connected world.

The Business Internet Consortium faces potentially lethal challenges but is not stillborn.

See news story:
High-tech heavyweights form new e-business consortium
Veterans of grip-and-grin news conferences sponsored by companies proclaiming e-business interoperability have developed a chronic case of sour stomach that flares every time traditional rivals such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and SAP place their arms around each other and announce they are backing some interoperability initiative.

So the Business Internet Consortium--a "think tank" intended to "generate technologies and practices designed to address growing e-business implementation challenges"--is sure to clear the shelves of antacids. This alliance intends to create a long-term structure that will address multiple problems. And presumably it will coordinate multiple standards so that snarls do not develop like the ones that delayed Open Financial Exchange and Gold, the financial software standards.

But the major e-business companies have usually settled on little but a general willingness to overuse the word "coopetition." This does not bode well for the future. Such consortia are powerless to enforce their recommendations, and companies (quite reasonably) tend to pursue their own self-interests when faced with a choice of product development directions that might delay software's release or upgrade.

Nor is it auspicious that i2 Technologies, Oracle and Sun Microsystems, and e-market infrastructure specialist Ariba have not signed on to the Business Internet Consortium.

The consortium's work will no doubt overlap with that of the Internet Engineering Task Force, UDDI, CommerceNet and other standards bodies, including those in specific vertical industries (such as banking). Among its initial interests, the consortium has targeted such widely disparate areas as intranet latency and concurrency--"using XML and other technologies to transform traditional business practices into e-business practices"--and making single sign-ons to networks and the applications running through them easier.

Companies have already stretched themselves thin in seeking to work with such bodies, plus the World Wide Web Consortium. Success will come to the new entity only if it delivers quick, substantive results in a particularly challenging and valuable area where other alliances have failed (such as inter-enterprise billing standards)--and if it can give its big-name members ways to make more money than they otherwise could.

(For related commentary on e-business solutions, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

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