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Technical Standards Bodies & Industry Associations - Why are they so important to the industry?

By Denise Ridolfo, SNIA Europe Board of Directors, Standards and Industry Evangelist

Someone once asked me a question: Why do I think it is so important to volunteer my time in support of standards bodies and industry associations?  

For more than 20 years, I have been volunteering my time working with various standards bodies and industry associations.  It is a bit complicated, but I believe that I truly have a unique perspective on why they both are instrumental and critical to the success of a specific standard for a specific market – each plays its own role. So my response is this – I find it very exciting and rewarding to work alongside intelligent, creative and out-of-the-box industry entrepreneurs and to be at the forefront of developing innovative solutions.  To work alongside volunteers from different companies (competitors, partners, alliances, etc.) interested in providing the right technology enabling the best solution for the end users and the market.  To be able to collectively envision new ideas and then drive this forward to completion via the standards bodies and then through the industry associations, I find, is very rewarding.  The genuine collaboration that takes place in this environment is absolutely incredible and extremely rewarding.

Yes, we all have our day jobs, and there are many of us out there – standards and industry warriors – who are passionate and committed to this work and all truly believe this work is critical in providing vendor-neutral solutions for today and tomorrow’s needs.  This work and these organizations have been around for more than two decades and are likely to be around for many more.

For donkey’s years technical standards and industry associations have played a major role in identifying key technology trends, developing, creating and implementing the standards, and finally rolling out these standards through various national and international standards bodies for adoption. Once the standard has been approved, the various industry associations will then take on the responsibility to market, promote, educate and support this.  Vendors will then build and sell standard-compliant products to the market.

The definition of a ‘standards body’ is any organization whose primary activities are developing, coordinating, promulgating, revising, amending, reissuing, interpreting, or otherwise producing technical standards that are intended to address the needs of some relatively wide base of affected adopters.  A technical standard is an established norm or requirement in regard to technical systems. It is usually a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices.

A trade association, also known as an industry association, is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. An industry trade association is basically the marketing group that comes together to promote, educate and market a specific standard and its main focus is collaboration between companies.   Many not-for-profit associations are governed by laws and directed by officers who are also members.

Where IT all begins: standards organizations come in many different flavours.  

•    The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards. International Standards give state of the art specifications for products, services and good practice, helping to make industry more efficient and effective. Developed through global consensus, they help to break down barriers to international trade.  ISO develops International Standards. Founded in 1947, ISO has published more than 19,500 International Standards covering almost all aspects of technology and business. From food safety to computers, and agriculture to healthcare, ISO International Standards impact all our lives.

•    The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) was formed in 1963 when AIEE merged with IRE. This organization is composed of engineers, scientists, and students and is best known for developing standards for the computer and electronics industry.

•    Since 1960, INCITS, the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards has been the central U.S. forum dedicated to creating technology standards for the next generation of innovation.  INCITS members combine their expertise to create the building blocks for globally transformative technologies – from cloud computing to communications, transportation to health care technologies and biometrics to software engineering.

•    The Linux Foundation is a non-profit technology consortium chartered to foster the growth of Linux.  Founded in 2007 and is supported by leading Linux and open source companies and developers from around the world.  The Linux Foundation promotes, protects and standardizes Linux by providing a comprehensive set of services to compete effectively with closed platforms.

•    Incorporated in 1997, the Storage Networking Industry Association is a not-for-profit association that enables members to develop robust solutions for storing and managing data. SNIA has adopted the role of industry catalyst for the development of storage solution specifications and technologies, global standards, and storage education.

•    The Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) enables effective management of IT environments. The organization is comprised of industry-leading member companies that collaborate on the development, validation and promotion of infrastructure management standards. DMTF is committed to protecting companies' IT investments by creating standards that promote multi-vendor interoperability. Our dedication to fostering collaboration within the industry provides a win-win situation for vendors and IT personnel alike.

Alliances between Standards Bodies and Industry Associations

Below are some examples of a standards body and its complementary industry association.  



The Industry Association model is pretty much the same as any company’s marketing infrastructure.  Below is a graphic that shows a typical industry association like SNIA Europe, FCIA, DMTF or Ethernet Alliance with its governing board, leaders and various industry volunteers that are responsible for specific roles.



There is plenty to do, and organizations like I have mentioned in this blog are always looking for volunteers.  Are you a visionary, creative and passionate?  Then it might just be time for you to get involved!



About Denise Ridolfo
Denise Ridolfo is the Industry and Standards Operations Manager in the Office of the CTO at NetApp. With over 20 years of experience in the high technology and storage networking industry, Ridolfo is responsible for leveraging NetApp’s participation in Standards and Industry organization to raise visibility, awareness and to promote NetApp’s market leadership.

Before joining NetApp, Ridolfo was a successful storage industry marketing consultant focused on helping clients in the following areas: marketing, marketing communications, corporate public relations, strategy, branding, program management and HR. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree from University of San Francisco in Human Relations and Organizational Behavior.

Denise Ridolfo has consistently actively participated in key standards bodies and industry associations holding various roles and responsibilities such as: SNIA Europe Executive Board of Directors and EMEA Marketing Chair for six years, IEEE, INCITS, The Linux Foundation, OpenStack Foundation, Open Virtualization Alliance Marketing Committee, Fibre Channel Industry Association (Board of Directors & Marketing committee), DMTF Vice-Chair of Marketing, Ethernet Alliance, SNIA Corporate Marketing, and IP Storage Forum Marketing Chair for six years.

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