While you may be familiar with the consensus-based, community driven governance known as the Apache Way that Apache projects use, this primer will help you understand how the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) works behind the scenes.
As a Delaware, US-based membership corporation and an IRS registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, the ASF is governed by a set of corporate bylaws. The Membership elects a Board of Directors which sets corporate policy and appoints officers; officers set and execute corporate policy; and the Board appoints various Project Management Committees (PMCs) to run Apache software projects.
Behind the scenes of the many successful Apache projects, the ASF operates like any other corporation. 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 somewhat different from how our projects work.
The Members of the ASF are similar to stockholders; they elect new Members and may vote for Directors.
The Board sets corporate policy, appoints officers, forms PMCs, delegates policy or corporate execution areas to officers, and delegates responsibility for managing their own projects to PMCs.
PMCs vote on new committers and PMC members for their project, set per-project policies, and formally vote on software product releases. PMCs report quarterly directly to the board, not to the President.
The board elects a Board Chair (a director) and appoints a standard range of executive officers. Officers are all unpaid volunteers, and serve at the direction of the board in their specific areas of responsibility. Officers are responsible both for managing the Foundations affairs in their specific areas, and for reporting monthly status reports to the board.
Executive officers include a President, Executive Vice President, Secretary, Assistant Secretary, and Treasurer.
The board has appointed several officers for corporate-wide functions - this includes Vice Presidents to oversee Brand Management, Conference Planning, Fundraising, Legal Affairs, Marketing and Publicity, Travel Assistance, and Diversity. The board delegates authority to set and execute corporate policy within each 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.
Most of these corporate-wide officers report directly to the President on a monthly basis. This separates the strategic oversight the board provides at a high level from the day-to-day operations that the President and other officers handle for the ASF and on behalf of various Apache projects.
The board has two Board or Executive Committees, which operate with the authority of the board within their scope: the Legal Affairs committee and the Security Team. Board committees report monthly to the board.
Officers or President's Committees
The President and some officers have created President's Committees to assist with the policy or operations work of individual officers. Officers appoint other volunteers to help with their scoped work, in areas like Brand Management, Fundraising, and Travel Assistance. The responsible officers provide a report for the whole committee to the President monthly.
Within the ASF, the board delegates the technical direction of each project to its PMC. PMCs are expected to follow corporate policies for licensing, branding, infrastructure and so on–and to manage their projects independently following 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.
Committers are members of a project development community who have been granted write access to an Apache project. Each project's PMC invites people who have shown merit within their project to become committers. Committers must sign an Individual Contributor License Agreement (ICLA), which clearly defines the terms under which the committer contributes intellectual property to the ASF. This allows our projects to ensure that they can safely release the products they publish 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.
As a community-based organization, many other groups of individuals and organizations provide valuable work and services to the ASF and Apache projects, but are not directly part of our corporate governance.
Contributors are individuals who contribute source code patches, documentation, and help on mailing lists to Apache projects. Contributors do not have a specific governance role, however healthy projects are always on the lookout for productive and helpful contributors whom they can consider nominating as new committers.
Users use, and often ask for help about, our software. Many helpful users do not code, but still spend the time to submit bug reports and answer questions on our project's mailing lists.
As a non-profit entity, the ASF relies on financial contributions from organizations and individual supporters to provide infrastructure and services to ASF projects. To ensure project and corporate independence, sponsors are not part of corporate governance at the ASF. Becoming a sponsor does not give an organization or its employees any specific merit within the ASF or its projects.
The ASF contracts with vendors to provide specific services such as accounting, non-profit tax filing, legal counsel, or hosting or bandwidth services. Vendors are not otherwise part of our governance structures. Vendor relationships are managed by a volunteer officer whenever possible.
Contractors / Paid Staff
The ASF pays contractors to keep core infrastructure running, e.g., sysadmins. Normally we rely on volunteers for all of our work both at the technical and project levels, as well as the organizational and board levels. However, maintaining a reliable and secure infrastructure to keep all of our services running requires paid staff. These expenses along with hardware and bandwidth costs make up the largest part of our annual corporate budget.
The ASF does not pay for software development on any Apache projects; rather, we rely on volunteers for all of our project coding work. The ASF focuses on providing the technical, legal, and community infrastructure for like-minded communities and trust that healthy project communities will build their own software products.