The rise of open standards not owned by any one company has been a great boon to customers of computer and networking products, as well as the manufacturers that sell to them. In order to facilitate the development of open standards, however, organizations are needed that will coordinate the creation and publishing of these documents. Generally, these are non-profit organizations that specifically take a neutral stance regarding technologies and work for the betterment of the industry as a whole.
Here are some of the standards organizations that you are likely to encounter when reading about networking and the Internet:
International Organization for Standardization (ISO): Probably the biggest standards organization in the world, the ISO is really a federation of standards organizations from dozens of nations. In the networking world, the ISO is best known for its OSI Reference Model.
Note: The shortened name of the International Organization for Standardization is indeed “ISO”, and not “IOS” as you might imagine. In fact, it is not an acronym at all. Since the full name of the body differs from one language to the next, any acronym for that name would differ as well. Instead, the organization chose the name “ISO” from the Greek word “isos”, meaning “equal”. Many people, especially in the United States, think “ISO” is short for “International Standards Organization”, but this is incorrect.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI): ANSI is the main organization responsible for coordinating and publishing computer and information technology standards in the United States. While they are commonly thought of as developing and maintaining standards, they do neither. Instead, they oversee and accredit the organizations that actually create the standards, qualifying them as Standards Developing Organizations or SDOs. ANSI also publishes the standards documents created by the SDOs, and serves as the United States’ representative to the ISO.
Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC): ITIC is a group of several dozen companies in the information technology (computer) industry. ITIC is the SDO approved by ANSI to develop and process standards related to many computer-related topics. It was formerly known as the Computer and Business Equipment Manufacturers Association (CBEMA).
National Committee for Information Technology (NCITS): A committee established by the ITIC to develop and maintain standards related to the information technology world. NCITS was formerly known by the name Accredited Standards Committee X3, Information Technology, or more commonly, just X3. It maintains several sub-committees that develop and maintain standards for various technical subjects.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE): The IEEE (pronounced “eye-triple-ee”) is a well-known professional organization for those in the electrical or electronics fields, including computers and networking. IEEE’s main claim to fame in the networking industry is the IEEE 802 Project, which encompasses many popular networking technologies including Ethernet.
Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA): The EIA is an international industry association that is best known for publishing electrical wiring and transmission standards.
Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA): The TIA is the communications sector of the EIA, and is responsible for developing communications standards. Since communications, wiring and transmission are all related, and since the TIA and EIA organizations are also related, standards produced by the EIA or TIA are often labeled with the combined prefixes “EIA/TIA” or “TIA/EIA”.
International Telecommunication Union – Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T): ITU-T is another large international body that develops standards for the telecommunications industry. The ITU-T was formerly named the International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee or CCITT (the abbreviation was of the French version of the organization’s name, Comité consultatif international téléphonique et télégraphique.)
European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI): An organization with members from dozens of countries both within and outside Europe that is dedicated to developing telecommunications standards for the European market (and elsewhere). ETSI is known for, among other things, regulating the use of radio bandwidth in Europe and developing standards such as HiperLAN.
This list represents some of the more important organizations that are responsible for establishing and publishing standards in the networking world. It is not an exhaustive list, however. I should also point out that the set of related organizations responsible for creating Internet standards is not shown in this list as I have covered them in two dedicated topics on Internet standards organizations and registration authorities.
I want to emphasize that many of the organizations above do not actually develop the various standards. Generally, these are oversight organizations—“high level management” if you will—that work with many other smaller groups who actually develop the standards. Also, in many cases a particular standard may be published by more than one standards organization, so it may be labeled with more than one name.
Key Concept: There are a number of well-known international organizations that play an important role in the development of open networking standards. Some of the most important of these are ISO, ANSI, ITIC, IEEE, EIA/TIA, ITU-T and ETSI. These are oversight organizations, responsible for overall management of the standards development process, rather than for the particulars of creating individual standards.