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Don’t box me in

Is it time to say ‘no’ to open systems? By Philip Ling.

Openness is very much the zeitgeist of the moment; it captures the spirit of the time and – ironically – instils an element of security. If you're designing a system, the chances are you're considering how open you should make it. And for good reason: you want guaranteed interoperability from a number of suppliers without any nasty surprises lurking in the shadows; you don't want to be tied to a single source; or, indeed, impose any single source issues on your customers.

The real concerns in this era of openness are the availability and conformability of a system's constituent parts. Historically, a closed system tied customers to a single source and, while this provided a high level of confidence in the system, it did leave customers vulnerable to the whims of the supplier. For military applications, this became intolerable and the age of openness was born.

The reasoning is this: if the parts are readily available and interchangeable, the customer is protected from the negative aspects of a closed system but can still impose the positives, such as fitness for purpose, whilst enjoying consistency of supply and interoperability.

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Graham Pitcher

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