Apache Software Foundation may hire full-time, paid staff

'We are at somewhat of a crossroads,' says an ASF director

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) may soon have some full-time, paid staff, including an executive director, according to a member of the board of directors 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, an ASF co-founder and a member of the organization's board. "[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, who is in Bangalore, India, this week for a Linux event, is also the chief technology officer at CollabNet Inc., a Brisbane, Calif.-based provider of on-demand, distributed software development tools.

The ASF was set up in 1999 as a nonprofit enterprise to support the Apache community's open-source software projects. The Apache software developer community, comprising approximately 1,200 developers, works on about 20 projects, including the Apache HTTP Server project, its initial undertaking. A board with nine voluntary members runs the ASF's activities.

"It is starting to get to the point where we are realizing 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 also said the ASF's size makes it difficult for volunteers alone to run it.

Although the ASF won't 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 10 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 explained.

People are also less willing to tolerate downtime on the Apache Web site than they were four years ago, according to Behlendorf.

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

ASF members are now discussing the idea, according to Behlendorf. The ASF is also considering restricting the number of new projects it takes on and narrowing its focus to a few technology areas.

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

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon