Apache may end volunteer model

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) may soon have some full-time, paid staff including an executive director, according to a...

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) may soon have some full-time, paid staff including an executive director, according to a board director of the Delaware foundation. The ASF currently runs on a volunteer model.

"We are at somewhat of a crossroads now in that we have grown so quickly," said Brian Behlendorf, a co-founder and director of the ASF. "[The ASF] is starting to outstrip the ability for people who are volunteers to be able to keep up with it, and effectively manage it."

Behlendorf is also the chief technology officer of CollabNet, a provider of on-demand, distributed software development tools.

The ASF was set up in 1999 as a non-profit enterprise to provide support for the Apache community of open-source software projects.

The Apache software developer community, consisting of approximately 1,200 developers, works on about 20 projects, including the Apache HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) Server project, its initial undertaking. A board of nine voluntary members runs the ASF's activities.
"It is starting to get to the point where we are realising that we might need to hire a full-time executive director to help us stay on top of a lot of issues, help us craft a fund-raising strategy, help us craft an effective legal strategy," Behlendorf said. He added that the ASF's size is making the organisation difficult to operate solely on volunteer work.

Although the ASF will not pay developers to write software, it is considering hiring staff for some of the "grunt work" such as systems administration that volunteers are not keen on doing, according to Behlendorf.

"Apache has ten different servers to do different things, and right now administration is a voluntary thing, and it is hard to get volunteers to carry, say, a pager and respond when there is a problem," he added. People are also less willing to tolerate downtime on the Apache website than they were four years ago, according to Behlendorf.

Paying for the full-time staff requires fund raising, and the executive director must handle the challenge of retaining the ASF's independence while raising funds from individuals and companies, Behlendorf said. Currently donations to the ASF are random, he added.

ASF members are currently discussing the plan to hire staff, according to Behlendorf. The ASF is also considering restricting the number of new projects it adds, and narrowing its focus to a few technology areas.

Paying for legal counsel is another ASF possibility. According to Behlendorf, The SCO Group's legal claims against Linux made the open-source community realise that it needs to be more specific about contributions' origins and getting contributor agreements and honest and clear when putting the copyright statement on the code.

John Ribeiro writes for IDG News Service

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