[OpenAFS-announce] An open letter from the OpenAFS Council of Elders

Derrick J Brashear openafs-info@openafs.org
Tue, 6 May 2008 14:08:51 -0400 (EDT)

Since OpenAFS began its life as an open source project seven and a half 
years ago, the OpenAFS community has made great strides at advancing the 
capabilities of the product while improving its stability and maintaining 
backwards-compatibility for sites with existing deployments.

Early in the life of the project, an administrative structure with little 
to no overhead was appropriate as it needed to prove its viability and 
longevity. There were a broad range of institutions that formerly had IBM 
AFS source code licenses waiting in the wings to contribute years of 
internal extensions and many others that had been waiting for an 
opportunity to work on long-desired projects.

During this time much has been accomplished.  There has been a broad 
transition from IBM supported AFS cells to OpenAFS.  Support has been 
added for several new platforms while being strengthed on others.  The 
community has adapted OpenAFS to the modern Internet and reduced the help 
desk support costs for Microsoft Windows, MacOS X and Linux clients.

The OpenAFS community has matured.  Several of the organizations that 
founded OpenAFS have left us but have been replaced by hundreds of others. 
Since the creation of the OpenAFS repository there have been 9450 commits 
from 270 contributors.  The number of commits have almost doubled on an 
annual basis during that time period. Traffic on the openafs-provided 
general mailing list has on average tripled from under a hundred messages 
per month to close to 300; At the same time, traffic on the developer list 
has done almost exactly the reverse as many of the early smaller issues 
have been resolved. A core of around 30 contributors to the developer list 
and an average of 75 unique posters per month on the general information 
list exchange information and ideas. Commercial support is now available 
from three independent corporations. Annual AFS conferences are now 
conducted on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet with all of this growth, the OpenAFS community has been unable to 
capitalize on a number of opportunities which have come our way due to the 
structure of the organization.  Efforts at raising resources through an 
unincorporated association of volunteers has failed. Entering into 
agreements and signing contracts with third parties on behalf of OpenAFS 
has proven impossible.

Over the last four years much of the serious progress has been 
individually funded by a small set of organizations in order to satisfy 
their own needs. This work has then been contributed to the OpenAFS 
repository to ensure that the functionality is present in future releases, 
is tested by a broader community, and as a result reduces the cost of 
on-going maintenance. These improvements have proven extremely valuable to 
many members of the community.

However this development model comes at a cost.  It is impossible for 
OpenAFS to determine its own destiny.  The Gatekeepers are unable to 
define a road map and achieve predictable progress because they do not 
control the resources. As the average size and complexity of the 
unimplemented projects increase, the number of organizations capable of 
funding the projects is continuously reduced.  Attempts at coordinating 
joint ventures among organizations have failed due to political and 
logistical issues.

The Elders feel we are at a critical juncture in the life of the project, 
where steps need to be taken to ensure further work continues to be 
undertaken to meet the long term needs of the OpenAFS community. 
Underscoring this point, OpenAFS is for the first time participating in 
the Google Summer of Code, providing an opportunity for new contributors 
to hone their skills while developing useful and needed additions to the 
OpenAFS product suite. OpenAFS has lined up a group of eager, willing and 
able mentors to aid the students in their ventures, and to aid in further 
work, at the conclusion of the Summer Google would like to make a small 
grant to OpenAFS.

Many of you will join us at the 2008 AFS and Kerberos Best Practices 
Workshop. The Workshop is funded by the OpenAFS Elders and proceeds are 
used to fund further development and infrastructure expenses.  The 
logistics of the workshop are unnecessarily challenging due to the lack of 
a legal OpenAFS entity and the desire for the Elders' money to be 
maintained by a tax-exempt charitable organization complying with Section 
501(c)3 of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

There are intellectual property issues as well.  OpenAFS is a brand that 
is currently unprotected by trademark.  Organizations that wish to donate 
code and documentation to OpenAFS but do not wish to hold onto the 
copyright have been forced to negotiate with third parties to take 
responsibility on their behalf.

To make best use of resources potentially at our disposal the Elders 
believe it is time to create a legal not-for-profit entity that will 
accept and manage grants, have the authority to enter into contracts, and 
provide protection for the intellectual property that belongs to the 
OpenAFS community.  This organization's mission will be to grow the 
product and perform advocacy and education for the user community.

To that end, the OpenAFS Council of Elders has proposed the incorporation 
of a not-for-profit foundation to perform tasks necessary to sustain and 
further the development of the OpenAFS product and user community.

We would like your feedback on this proposal, and suggest community 
discourse on the openafs-info@openafs.org mailing list. You are also 
welcome to bring specific concerns to the attention of the Elders via the 
openafs-elders@openafs.org mailing list.

Thank you,

Derrick Brashear and Jeffrey Altman
for the OpenAFS Council of Elders