Community-led development "The Apache Way"
This overview describes how the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is governed. This focuses both on the familiar Apache Way that Apache project communities use, and the important, behind-the-scenes governance of the non-profit corporation itself.
As a Delaware, US-based membership corporation and an IRS registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Apache Software Foundation is governed by a set of corporate bylaws, as are many other companies. 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 our many Apache software projects.
While many people are familiar with the consensus-based, community driven governance known as The Apache Way that Apache projects use, readers may not be as familiar with how the ASF as a corporation works behind the scenes.
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 than how our projects work.
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, delegates policy or corporate execution areas to officers, and delegates responsibility for managing their own projects to PMCs. Read about the Board of Directors.
PMCs vote on new committers and PMC members for their project, set per-project policies, and formally vote on software product releases. Read about PMCs. 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. We always have a complete list of officers published. 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 and 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 W3C Relations. 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, we manage it 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.
Our high-level Apache org chart 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 each project to its PMC. PMCs are expected to follow corporate policies in terms of 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. Read about PMCs.
Committers are members of 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. Committers may also list themselves in our worldwide listing of committers , as well as within our Community Development mentoring program.
In our 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 for a number of services, and for contractors 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 or employs several full-time sysadmins to maintain our wide variety of services and machines; these expenses 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 coding 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 source code patches, documentation, and help on mailing lists to Apache projects. All Apache projects greatly appreciate the thousands of volunteers who have contributed to our 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 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 Sponsors provide, which ensures we have the infrastructure and other services that our 300+ Apache projects rely on.
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.
The ASF contracts with a number of vendors to provide specific services, like accounting, non-profit tax filing, legal counsel, hosting or bandwidth services, and the like. Vendors are not otherwise part of our governance structures. Vendor relationships are managed by a volunteer officer whenever possible.