I’ll admit up front that I don’t know a whole lot about the inner workings or economics of the Apache Software Foundation, so it’s entirely possible there’s more to this story
from The New Stack—that the ASF is running a $130,000 deficit on revenue of only $1.2 million in 2016 (and it will only get worse if nothing changes)—than what’s on the surface. Nonetheless, it’s a disheartening situation. It seems like it also should be an avoidable one.
According to the article, ASF President Sam Ruby suggests the foundation needs a CEO and needs to get better at making decisions and managing its budget. He says ASF is looking to raise more money by selling more sponsorships, a goal it hopes to achieve in part by creating a new pitch deck. Invoking a different leadership structure is certainly a solid idea, and there is a lot the ASF could do to attract more members—starting with redesigning the website and revamping the sponsorship levels, rewards, etc.
But I’m not certain ASF needs a new pitch deck. In today’s tech world, no one should need an education on the the value of open source. Even the ASF, which one could argue is waning in terms of influence, shouldn’t need to go out selling.
Among the companies hosting projects in ASF, running major parts of their infrastructure on ASF technologies, or somehow reselling ASF technologies are: Apple, Google, Amazon, IBM, Netflix and Twitter. That list could go on for days, considering that we’re talking about projects such as Hadoop (and its whole ecosystem), Spark, Kafka, Cassandra and Mesos.
Companies certainly do contribute to ASF in ways other than direct sponsorship, but even still: A platinum sponsorship at $100,000 a year is less than the annual salary for pretty much any single employee at any large tech company. And there are lots big users of ASF technologies that are nowhere to be seen on the list of ASF sponsors
, even at the paltry $5,000 a year bronze level.
If open source truly is important and the open source spirit really does matter, I’m pretty certain we can do better than leaving the ASF twisting in the wind.