VMware and Red Hat joust over control of Vert.x open-source project

VMware and Red Hat joust over control of Vert.x open-source project

Summary: VMware has taken administrative control of an open-source project after its lead developer left the company for arch-rival Red Hat. The two companies are seeking a solution that will minimise disruption to the Vert.x community.


VMware is caught in a legal struggle with a former employee over control of an open-source project.

The virtualisation company instructed its lawyers to take control of open-source project Vert.x from its lead developer and former VMware employee Tim Fox, after Fox left VMware for its rival Red Hat. 

"On the 28th December I received a letter from VMware lawyers (delivered to my door in person, no less!) that I must immediately give up and transfer to VMware all administrative rights over the following things: The Vert.x github project, the Vert.x google group, the domain vertx.io and the Vert.x blog," Tim Fox wrote in a post to the Vert.x Google Group on Tuesday.

To avoid litigation, Fox has duly transferred ownership of the Vert.x domain, blog, Google Group and github organisation page to VMware. 

Vert.x is an application framework that runs on top of JVM (Java Virtual Machine). It lets developers use Ruby, Java, Groovy, JavaScript and Python to write multi-language applications. 

"For now, I will continue leading the Vert.x community the best I can under these restrictions, but we, as a community, need to consider what this means for the future of Vert.x and what is the best way to take the project forward."

Fox had administered the Vert.x project while at VMware and planned to continue doing so at Red Hat. 

After Fox informed the community, numerous members spoke out — mostly wishing to know whether someone from VMware would be taking over administrative duties. 

Joint statement

VMware and Red Hat responded to the community concern with a joint statement posted in the Google Group on Wednesday afternoon, that sought to assuage concerns and stressed that both companies think Fox's continued status as project lead is "an essential component to the success of the project.

"It's important that we try to allay any fears and uncertainty that the community has about the vert.x project and state clearly that VMware and Red Hat are still very much in active discussion regarding how best to support the vert.x project going forwards," Mark Little, a vice-president at Red Hat, and Alexis Richardson, a senior director at VMware, wrote in a joint post to the forum. 

"VMware and Red hat are still very much in active discussion regarding how best to support the vert.x project going forwards" — joint statement

The companies are seeking input from the community about the future direction of the project and whether to move it to an open-source software foundation. 

"Many thanks to all of the input — it has not gone unnoticed," the companies wrote in the post. 

A similar framework to Vert.x is Node.js, whose development is led by employees of cloud infrastructure provider Joyent. 

When companies joust for control of open-source projects, the developer community tends to get nervous, as happened with Oracle's takeover of Java via its acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2009. 

Although there are continuing concerns about a large proprietary-minded company running a massive open-source project, Oracle has so far stayed true to its goal of being a steward for the Java community rather than a dictator. 

Judging from Red Hat and VMware's post in the forum, the two companies are aware of this worry and are working hard to allay concerns and keep the project free of interference.

Neither VMware or Red Hat responded to ZDNet's requests for further information. 

Topics: Open Source, Cloud, Software

Jack Clark

About Jack Clark

Currently a reporter for ZDNet UK, I previously worked as a technology researcher and reporter for a London-based news agency.

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  • bad time for this

    Vert.x was getting a lot of good traction.
    This is something VMWare should have taken care of *BEFORE* Tim left! Someone dropped the ball :-P
    And it's not like he would have shut VMWare out...seems like he was just going to run it as before and Red Hat was ok with it...
    • Say what?

      Why was it VMware's responsibility to take care of it before Mr. Fox left the company? No one is denying that they have acted completely within their existing legal rights. The question is why did not Mr. Fox take care of it before leaving the company by verifying what appear to be completely erroneous assumptions about ownership of Vert.x IP or negotiating something more to his liking than the legal structure already in place?

      If I were less charitable I'd say it was because he knew which way the wind blew and figured he had a better chance of getting what he wanted in the court of public opinion than he did in actual court. Nothing resonates the violin strings of virulent open sourcers than the tarring of corporations with accusations of greed, conspiracy, and malice. Never mind who paid the bills, this is a sacred mission in the service of society!