X/Open Co Ltd currently derives some 20% of its revenues from royalties: it wants that figure to rise to 100% within five years, though that doesn’t mean the group won’t have any paying shareholders by that time, because some organisations will always want to pay upfront for a participation and package of services, it believes. […]
X/Open Co Ltd currently derives some 20% of its revenues from royalties: it wants that figure to rise to 100% within five years, though that doesn’t mean the group won’t have any paying shareholders by that time, because some organisations will always want to pay upfront for a participation and package of services, it believes. Last week it launched version 4 of the X Portability Guide and laid out some of its plans for the future.
XPG4 – 22 components, seven technologies
Although a range of XPG4 specifications have been available for a while now, X/Open says the fact that vendors will bring XPG4-compliant products to to market as soon as the end of this month (CI No 2,022) demonstrates the measures it has taken to make the latest XPG release more flexible and structured. It says vendors took around 18 months to bring out the first XPG3-branded products after its introduction. As well providing a more comprehensive set of guidelines for specifying open systems than XPG3, X/Open says the newly structured XPG4 is designed to make it easier for users to incorporate XPG requirements into their procurement policies. In its initial guise, XPG4 has 22 components – the smallest brandable entities in XPG4 – falling into seven technoloy areas: operating system and languages, data management, user interface (X Window and terminal interfaces), general, mainframe and personal computer interworking and media formats. Each component is additionally defined – where appropriate – by attributes that specify its relationship to the man-machine interface, interchange formats, portability, interfaces and communications protocols. Users can mix and match components for use in procurement processes. The first iteration of XPG4 comes with five profiles, to which others will be added: base, server, workstation, communications gateway and database. Each combines sets of components appropriate to those technology areas. A distributed computing profile will follow next year, based on the Open Software Foundation’s Distributed Computing Environment technology that X/Open recently endorsed. Prices for the profile specifications go from around $35 – UKP20 – to $400 – UKP225 – for combined sets. The complete set runs to some 7,500 pages and weighs a daunting 35 lbs on paper, but will also be available on CD-ROM. XPG4 will be updated constantly over the next five years before the introduction of XPG5, which is expected, by that time, to specify fully functional object-oriented technology from the kernel level up. As well as specs defined by its own workgroups, X/Open will adopt de jure and de facto standards from other organisations, vendors and consortia already doing relevent work including ISO, IEEE, the Object Management Group (objects), SPAG (interoperability), SQL Access Group (database access) and Network Management Forum (Omnipoints distributed network management).
UK cash sought for transaction test suite
In conjunction with the UK National Physical Laboratory, X/Open is also applying for funding under the Department of Trade & and Industry’s Prost initiative (for testing open systems conformance), to develop a method for testing transaction processing systems. At the high level, X/Open already has its XA transaction processing interface but, at the nuts and bolts level, an evaluation mechanism needs to be established for the transaction technologies now being productised. Indeed, with embryonic products like Unix System Labs’ Tuxedo, Transarc Corp’s Encina and now IBM’s CICS/6000 already struggling for mind and market share, X/Open will be under pressure to avoid the problems that it faced – and to some extent still does over the lack of a standard for graphical user interfaces. The fact there was, and still is, no X/Open standard or specification guaranteeing interoperability for applications across different user interfaces means that two of the most widely used ones – Sun Microsystems Inc’s Open Look and the Open Software Foundation’s Motif – fought a bitter war for market share and support of the software developer community, leaving
the user little option but to leap blindly for one or the other. In its defence, X/Open says it has already identified how and where transaction products need to interface, though it doesn’t specify them and wouldn’t put a timeframe on when the first X/Open-branded product would arrive.
New tiers of membership
The new tiers of membership, which become available this month, are intended to add some teeth to X/Open’s existing system vendor, independent software vendor and user councils, described by X/Open chief technical officer Mike Lambert as pure talking shops. Now, each member at the Technical or Requirements level – be they shareholder, vendor, independent software vendor or user – will get to cast a single vote in the respective workgroups. The new categories are intended to complement, not supersede the councils, and to give participants the chance to influence future X/Open specifications. Technical membership has been created for suppliers, and costs from UKP3,000 to UKP15,000. The ticket buys participation in one or more technology workgroups, input into X/Open specifications, the roadmap and Xtra Process. X/Open expects the likes of Sequent Computer Systems Inc and Tandem Computer Inc to take advantage of membership at this level to influence specifications, for example, on commercial multi-processing and fault tolerance. Requirements membership, a means for users and X/Open customers to have their say in defining future requirements via another tier of working groups, costs UKP13,000 and includes participation in the Xtra workshops, X/Open’s conferences and access to the technical workgroups. An Affiliate membership will also be available to those concerned with following the progess of specifications and getting early access to X/Open publications and guides, though no price was given. Shareholder dues remain at UKP350,000, which includes membership of one of the councils UKP10,000 to others – particpation in all working groups and a royalty waiver for using the X/Open brand. Technical membership, which carries a vote in the technology working groups, is touted as the most likely vehicle for X/Open to admit other industry groups and consortia. That includes the Open Software Foundation, which, having given up its board seat at the beginning of this year, currently has no formal relationship with X/Open, even though the standards body has endorsed its Distributed Computing Environment technology. Unix International, which, like the Open Software Foundation, says it can no longer afford the $1m annual cost of membership, will also be looking for a new role within the organisation come the end of 1992. There needs to be a major switch of political will before the Foundation could be re-admitted to the fold. The fine print says that to become a technical member, an organisation or company must already be a member of one of the councils. Moreover candidacy for technical membership has to be proposed and endorsed by council members. And here lies the rub. It appears that X/Open’s independent software vendor council has thus far been unwilling to admit the Foundation to its ranks political reasons notwithstanding – because, X/Open president Geoff Morris says, its members don’t feel happy about granting it an X/Open ticket for a mere fraction of the price that it was originally paying. However, there are discussions with the software group under way – it’s the only council category that it’s qualified to join. Morris says the software vendor council knows it is a problem.
Working with oilmen on POSC branding
Chief technical officer Mike Lambert says X/Open is also supporting the Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation, which is trying to get its own branding scheme off the ground with the aim of harmonising standards within the oil industry. Its spec embraces XPG, as does Multi-vendor Integrated Architecture, NTT Corp’s embryonic open architecture, which X/Open is also supporting. – William Fellows