OSF Responds to UniForum Members' Opinions

Says future will bring more end user solutions, sooner

[Editor's Note: In our last issue, we reported on a number of member responses to a UniNews query on the Open Software Foundation (OSF) reorganization announced last March. Roger Gourd, Open Software Foundation vice president and chief of staff, submitted the following comments in answer to those questions:]

1. How do you think the OSF move will benefit end users, or does it only concern vendors?

Gourd: The OSF move is designed to facilitate more end-user solutions, sooner, and with an increased potential for buy-in across many vendors for the technology and specification derived under the new model. It is not only vendors who should be concerned here. We all are certainly aware that the vendor community has long frustrated users through lack of clear focus and attention, and timeliness for open systems solutions. Perhaps now that most of the "wars" are over, the vendor community can get on with addressing the needs of the open systems environments.

2. OSF says the new structure will make its processes more open to end-user input. Do you agree?

Gourd: I most certainly agree, but I question your semantics for "more open." OSF openness has been well exhibited for six years, and I assure you it will continue. This should not be confused however with any up-front efforts which PST proposers initiate in order to author their proposals. Be sure to understand distinctions between "open/closed/proprietary" and "public/private"-OSF always has been able to so I ask the same of the open systems community.

3. What is the next logical step for UNIX unification?

Gourd: I could offer a few steps that I envision, but I find the behavior in reaction to such "brainstorming" only (and yes, sadly) puts a focus on the sort of ego and judgment-trampling our community can well do without right now. In the near term, I am encouraged that the chairman of the OSF Board of Directors [Dennis Roberson] comes from AT&T. That must say that we've done much right through OSF's six-year life! And I'd add that with the increased base of sponsors there certainly seems to be an admission that unification, if not here now, is so close that we can all sense its presence. The next logical step is to move rapidly with Spec 1170 compliance and additional breadth and depth. And we need to realize that UNIX, or operating systems in general, are really no longer of interest. We need to get on with standards, with portability, and with interoperability at the middleware level.

[UniNews also asked members what they wanted to know about OSF's pre-structured technology (PST) development model. We found that they wanted to know a lot-mostly a complete explanation of what PST is. For answers, see the related article in this issue.

Gourd also had the following replies to specific member comments on the above questions:]

[The OSF changes] will help with the addition of new technology into UNIX. - Gary Michael Clark, San Antonio, TX

Gourd: That is certainly the intent for the open systems industry. Prior to our March announcement of new sponsors and a new process, and most certainly since, OSF staff have been hard at work to get ready for, and to seek out more technology solutions, sooner. We, as well as our 15 sponsors, realize that if this intent is not satisfied, the issues of most concern to users will continue to be frustrated-not good news for any vendor, I'm sure.

I think end users will receive many benefits by simple implementation of GUI and applications APIs. - Nobuaki Hashizume, Mountain View,


Gourd: This can certainly be the good news (after all this time) if vendors better respond to the collaborative sharing required by focusing solutions through OSF. This implies continued recognition that to win in the open systems marketplace, there will need to be consideration for giving up some of the specs and code seen from vendors today as value-added or a competitive advantage. Only through products that ease user installation, environment management, application portability and consistency against standards will the users realize their expectations for open systems.

What if some new startup creates the perfect operating system that will run on any platform? Won't that take away some of the meat (or bread and butter) of our system of competition in these areas? - David McCall, Rohnert Park, CA

Gourd: This raises a question I'm hard put to answer in the '90s. With the massive investments in vendor applications aligned with their systems, and with the strength of alliances that some ISVs have with their favorite vendors (if only for volume), I find it difficult to envision the new OS which will capture massive interest/attention in the marketplace. Operating systems are not the major subject today-ease of use and portability for applications seems to me to be a major sticking point, as is convenience in adapting the complete user environment for profitable interoperability within an enterprise.

I think OSF is concerned only with vendors, but it will be interesting to find out more about this new strategy. - David A. Trevino Rodriguez, Monterrey, Mexico

Gourd: This may be a natural conclusion since the majority of revenue and technical collaboration comes from vendors, but it misses the point. OSF believes open systems solutions are for the users of computing. Corporations adopt open systems strategies to try and save themselves money in their day-to-day operations. We work hard to apply input from users as influence on the mind-sets of vendors as they adopt technologies and the standardization implied by OSF specifications, to build products.

[The change in OSF] will benefit end users because it will move UNIX farther down the path to true plug and play standardization. For the vendors, it will be a benefit because more software companies and end users will look into UNIX as a viable market to enter. - Brad Bright, Irvine, CA

Gourd: This most certainly captures the intent of OSF, both on the part of its own staff and on the part of the companies with whom we are pleased to be associated as sponsors and as contributors. The Architecture Planning Council (sponsors, X/Open, and end users), the board of directors (sponsors, X/Open, and an end user representative), and the OSF staff are committed to helping the open systems movement overall. The proof will be in the continued works evolving from the OSF collaborative.

OSF is of no benefit to anyone except OSF. It is a bureaucracy beholden to itself - Kim L. Shiveley, Richardson, TX

Gourd: This makes me think that either our message is not properly tuned, or perhaps more correctly, that some will never "buy" the message. That is certainly OK, indeed we work best here at OSF when we're challenged to a better job sooner than expected. I believe it does the sponsors of OSF no harm to hear the critics. Only through sponsor response with accepted open systems products and specifications of merit will the critics be proved wrong.

We have "talked the talk" and now the newly shaped OSF, with its increased community of sponsor support, needs to "walk the walk." Timeliness is key. As we complete our commitments and obligations planned for 1994 (releases of Motif, OSF/1, DME NMO, DCE; interoperability certifications; continued work within the OSF Research Institute; continued support, service and training), we are also positioning ourselves for the "proof" of our new capabilities via the newly defined PST process, for more technology solutions, sooner.