Open Source and Standards

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about Open Source at IBM? Find your answers to the most common questions about Open Source and how IBM can help integrate Open Source into your business.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Q: What are specifications?

A:Think of a specification as a blueprint: a basic set of instructions to direct a builder in how to properly construct a structure. Once established, any number of duplicates or variants can be made, while keeping the basic structure or function intact. Specifications are used to ensure commonality between work products, and can be applied to products, services or methods.

Q: What are standards?

A:A standard is a specification that has been agreed upon by a community, through usage or declaration. The purpose of a standard is identical that of a specification: to instruct others on how a particular work product is to be built. Like a specification, standards can be applied to products, services or methods. In IT, they typically define interfaces or formats that software or hardware components must adhere to in order to ensure interoperability with other components or systems. All standards are specifications, while not all specifications are a standard.

Q: What are open standards?

A:Open standards are openly documented standards, published without restrictions that limit implementations. Open standards, like HTTP, HTML, TCP/IP, XML and SQL, are evolved collaboratively by software engineers typically from various IT or software companies who collaborate under the auspices of standards organizations such as W3C, OASIS, OMA, ISO and IETF. Open standards are implemented by offerings available in the market, including software and hardware.

Q: What is open source?

A:Open source in IT is software whose source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees. Open source software (OSS) usually evolves through community developers composed of individual programmers, as well as very large companies. Some examples of open source initiatives are Linux, Eclipse, Apache, Mozilla, Globus Alliance and various projects hosted on, a developer portal for the hosting of open source projects.

Open source software is offered under a license agreement which allows recipients to freely copy, modify and distribute the program source code without paying a royalty or fee. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to managing and promoting the Open Source Definition for the good of the community, specifically through the OSI Certified Open Source Software certification mark and program. There are a variety of different open source licenses approved by the OSI.

Open source software promotes standards and leverages community development and collaborative innovation. It also typically is produced through a development methodology which uses a community approach and peer review to develop software.

Refer to OSI site for further details

Q: What is open architecture?

A:Open architecture in IT is a flexible architectural approach that allows for the loose binding of application functionality through the use of standards. Open architectures provide independence to isolate and distribute work to the most effective teams within and outside the organization. A good example is the Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) which views every application or resource as a reconfigurable service implementing a specific, identifiable set of (business) functions.

Q: What is open computing?

A:Open computing is the philosophical principle that describes architecture and technology procurement policies and practices that align IT with the principles of "openness" by ensuring interoperability with open standards.

The principles and benefits of "openness" include choice, flexibility, speed to market, agility, and the availability of skilled resources. Open computing is built on a foundation of community innovation, and uses open standards and open architecture. Open source can be a good way of implementing open computing, along with private source and mixed open/private source solutions.

IBM believes that open computing is the simplest and most cost effective approach to building flexible business infrastructures.

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