• United States

WAN CPE and the standards conundrum

Aug 26, 20042 mins

* Standards: too many, not enough, or just right?

The recently released “2004 Webtorials WAN Equipment State-of-the-Market Report” revealed an interesting anomaly concerning standards. In particular, users feel that standards are very important – even for areas where standards don’t exist.

As a part of the survey, users were asked to choose factors that were important to them in their choice of WAN equipment. The most important factor was “adherence to standards,” beating out even total cost of ownership and ease of deployment. But the fact is that for several of the types of equipment that will see the most growth, like network intrusion detection/prevention systems, traffic shaping appliances, application-based firewalls, and, for the most part, even WAN monitoring equipment, the standards are not well set. For these developing markets, the majority of the products are highly proprietary.

Lack of standards for these products, however, doesn’t seem to be a major inhibitor. Interestingly, when the respondents were asked about factors that were inhibiting their decision to move forward, two choices – “not enough standards” and “too many standards” – came in dead last.

Our take on this apparent conflict is that standards are a very important factor – at least as lip service – to users. After all, saying you don’t care about standards would be the ultimate act of heresy in most IT shops. We’re supposed to love standards. On the other hand, vendors who are building quite successful products have little incentive to standardize. Why share the proverbial better mousetrap with the rest of the world?

Yet another lesson here is that users apparently see the benefits of these leading-edge products as being sufficiently strong that they’re willing to sacrifice standardization for functionality. If that’s truly the case, then additional standards in these areas may indeed be a long time coming.