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Vendor-led community projects? Don’t forget your hatMatthew Aslett, August 1, 2011 @ 12:18 pm ET
Brian Proffitt asked an interesting question last week with regards to the OpenStack project: ‘can a commercial vendor lead a project as openly as a foundation?’
It’s an interesting question, and one that is particularly prescient given the observed re-balancing of control and community.
In fact. we’ve previously cited OpenStack as an example of this shift towards community, given that it was designed to be more open than the alternative and the organisations behind it specifically chose distributed copyright ownership and a non-copyleft license, as well as a promise of openness in order to shift the balance away from vendor control towards community.
The project has not been without its controversial moments, but we have been bullish about the project’s success given that Rackspace does not plan any commercial licensing or products to generate revenue from OpenStack (although it is offering services and support for OpenStack via Rackspace Cloud Builders).
Additionally, while the common perception of vendor-led projects would suggest that there is a disjoint between vendor-control and collaborative development, there are clear examples of community projects led by a single commercial interest.
One of the primary examples of this is the Fedora Project, sponsored by Red Hat but maintained and driven by the community. While the Fedora Project has not been without tension, I think most people would agree that by and large it has successfully balanced control and community.
Fedora is also an interesting example given Brian’s question about whether a foundation is required to protect the independence of an open source project.
One of the reasons behind the change of heart had to do with the complexity of setting up an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization – in particular the need to raise one third of its funding from public sources within four years.
Given the resources Red Hat commits to the project it was thought to be impractical that one third of Red Hat’s commitment could be raised from the public. For example, it was estimated that the Fedora Foundation would need to raise $750k a year to cover bandwidth costs alone.
This highlights something important about open source foundations: it is a lot easier to demand one than it is to set one up, whatever the theoretical advantages might be.
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