A brief overview of Apache™ Corporate Governance that describes the groups and procedures used for corporate and project governance within the Apache Software Foundation.
As a US-based membership corporation and 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is governed by a set of bylaws in terms of it's corporate actions. The Membership elects a Board of Directors which sets corporate policy, and delegates ownership of project policies and execution to various officers and Project Management Committees (PMCs).
While many people are familiar with the consensus-based, community driven governance known as The Apache Way that is used by our projects, readers perhaps may not be as familiar with how the ASF as a corporation works.
Behind the scenes of the many successful Apache projects, the ASF is run and managed much like other legal corporations. While the ethos of The Apache Way - merit, consensus, community, charity - is reflected within our corporate governance activities, the details of how the corporation legally works are important to understand.
The Members of the ASF are similar to stockholders; they elect new Members and may vote for Directors. Read about the ASF Membership.
The Board sets corporate policy, appoints officers, forms PMCs, and delegates policy or execution to those officers and PMCs. Read about the Board of Directors.
The board elects a Chairman (a director) and appoints a usual slate of executive officers. Officer positions are all unpaid volunteers, and serve at the direction of the board in their specific areas of responsibility. We always have a complete list of officers published. Officers are responsible both for managing the Foundations affairs in their specific areas, as well as reporting monthly status reports back to the board.
Executive officers include the normal slate of officers, including a President, Executive Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Assistant Secretary and Treasurer.
The board has at various times appointed other officers for corporate-wide functions - this includes Vice Presidents to oversee Brand Management, Conference Planning, Fundraising, Legal Affairs, Marketing and Publicity, Travel Assistance, and W3C Relations, among others. The board delegates the authority to set and execute corporate policy within the officer's specific area of responsibility.
The board has also appointed a VP of Infrastructure, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of our Infrastructure team and the hardware that keeps Apache running. Since our infrastructure (websites, mailing lists, source code control, wikis, etc.) is a shared resource for all projects at the ASF, it is managed centrally. The VP, Infrastructure reports to the President.
PMCs vote on new committers and PMC members for their project, and set per-project policies. Read about PMCs.
Our high-level Apache org chart best shows the separation between organizational governance (the board & members) and technical governance (PMCs and committers).
Within the ASF, the board delegates the technical direction of all projects to each PMC. PMCs are expected to follow corporate policies in terms of licensing, branding, infrastructure and so on, and are expected to manage their projects independently using The Apache Way. PMCs are tasked with all other aspects of project management, especially technical direction.
PMCs work to produce software for the public good by voting on releases of their project's software products. Read about PMCs.
Committers are members of project development community who have been granted write access to an Apache projects. Each project's PMC invites people who have shown merit within their project to become committers. Committers must sign a brief Individual Contributor License Agreement (ICLA), which clearly defines the terms under which intellectual property has been contributed to the ASF. This allows our projects to ensure that the products they publish can safely be released under the Apache License.
Committers are elected separately for every project; merit within one project is not necessarily transferable to other projects. Committers also have access to a one Foundation-wide committer repository, where a few extra services and tools useful for doing Apache project work are available. Committers may also list themselves in our worldwide listing of committers , as well as within our Community Development mentoring program.
As a community-based organization, there many other groups of individuals and organizations that provide valuable work and services for the ASF and Apache projects, but are not directly part of our corporate governance.
Contractors / Paid Staff
The ASF pays both for a number of services, and for several contractors to continue to keep core infrastructure running. Normally we rely on volunteers for all of our work - both at the technical and project levels, and at the organizational and board levels. However maintaining a reliable and secure infrastructure to keep all of our services running requires paid staff.
Currently, the ASF contracts several full-time sysadmins to maintain our wide variety of services and machines; these contracts along with hardware and bandwidth costs make up the largest part of our annual corporate budget. We also contract for marketing and publicity services.
Note that the ASF does not pay for software development on any Apache projects; we rely on volunteers for all of our project work. The ASF focuses on providing the technical, legal, and community infrastructure for like-minded communities; we trust that healthy project communities will build their own software products.
Contributors are individuals who contribute patches - source code, documentation, help on mailing lists - to Apache projects. All Apache projects greatly appreciate the thousands of volunteers who have contributed work back to our projects.
Contributors do not have a specific governance role - however healthy projects are always on the lookout for productive and helpful contributors, so they can consider nominating new committers.
Users use our software, and often ask for help about our software. Many helpful users are non-technical, but still spend the time to submit bug reports and answer questions on our project's mailing lists.
Many organizations and a few individuals have signed up as Sponsors of Apache, and have pledged annual donations to the ASF. The ASF is greatly appreciative of both the financial and other support that our many Sponsors provide, which ensures we have the infrastructure and other services needed to ensure our 100+ Apache projects can succeed.
To ensure project and corporate independence, Sponsors are not part of corporate governance at the ASF. Becoming a Sponsor does not give your organization or employees any specific merit within the ASF or our projects, although Sponsors are always recognized by the ASF on our Thanks page.