Following standards matters—
whether in motors or the cloud
by David Ross
This past weekend I spent parts of three days working on my son's car, and gained another insight and appreciation for standards in general. This activity also got me to musing on the recent IBM push for building our products based on Open Standards.
You don't have to dig far to see why having a standard interface and platform can be beneficial. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I have to give high praise to the manufacturer of my son's car - a 1993 Honda Accord LX, with now approaching 244,000 miles.
Last week the blower motor for the cabin air died. I reduced the culprit to either the resistor ($40) or the blower motor ($80). If I replaced the motor, it was recommended to replace the resistor as well, so I started there, being the
cheapskate frugal person that I am. Here's where standards came into play. I was able to remove all the pieces of the interior necessary to get to the offending part using 1 socket and 1 screwdriver for all but three screws. I have done car repairs where I couldn't get the first component removed without using more than that, so needless to say, I was very pleased to not have to constantly reach for or ask for yet one more tool to get work done. All the repairs took place in 100 degree heat, so anything that made it simpler was more than welcome.
Unfortunately, it was not the resistor, so I purchased the motor. The old motor connected to a yellow and a blue wire. The new motor had a yellow and a blue wire – I was home free, right? I wired in the new motor, blue wire to blue wire, and yellow wire to yellow wire. This was now the second time I've had this all apart now - there was no reliable way to test things outside of having them installed. I did confirm the motor operated before inserting it back up under the dash in its housing, so I figured I was set. After putting it all together, it was time for the test drive - and I was more miserable than not having A/C at all. Why? Now, we had a motor blowing for all it was worth, but only the faintest trickle of air creeping out the vents - we were being teased by the thought of cooler air!
After taking it apart and confirming that the baffles & such were all in order, I put it together a third time, with the same results. Finally, on a whim, I pulled the unit one last time and turned it on .... and found that the motor was spinning the WRONG WAY. I was only interested in a spinning motor the first time, since the old motor did not spin at all, so I did not pay attention to the direction of the airflow. So, I rewired the connections - yellow to blue and blue to yellow, and finally, after 3 days of working off and on in triple digit temperatures, I have a working air conditioner.
Thank you Honda for using a standard size nut and bolt head for many of the parts in your interior - that made it very simple to remove the pieces necessary. Shame on you motor company for wiring your motor backwards to the colors indicated. In both cases, standards played a role.
Baltimore, Maryland, here in the United States, suffered a tremendous fire in February 1904 that burned over 1,500 buildings over 140 acres. Over 1,200 firefighters from across the east coast battled the blaze over two days. It is noted that one reason for the fire's long duration was the lack of national standards in fire-fighting equipment. Fire engines from nearby cities - Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York City, Virginia, Wilmington, and Atlantic City - all sent units, but many could not help. Why? Their hose couplings could not fit Baltimore's hydrants. This is something that is unheard of today, with standards for many things of this nature now just a part of the fabric of daily operation.
And so it is becoming in the I/T industry – a reliable, open, repeatable, shared standard enables everyone that is willing to play in the same sandbox a level playing field from which to start. Vendors can plug in to each other's products more readily without being locked in by a closed, proprietary standard that will make future changes more costly. We've had many standards over the years, and look at the benefits: TCP/IP, HTML, XML, PCI, IDE, USB, and so on, have opened up the marketplace to hundreds of products and services that otherwise would not have been possible. Open standards in cloud technologies, such as OpenStack, are the logical next step in the evolution of the software and hardware industries – and hopefully will help motors spin the right way in the end!
David Ross is a Technical Enablement Specialist with IBM’s Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure Cloud Enablement team. When he is not installing blower motors, he’s installing and configuring Linux or Windows machines for use in IBM’s technical training classes which he develops and presents. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.