The Open Infrastructure Foundation brings open source to business

The open-source method can revolutionize businesses as well as software.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Today, almost all software that matters is developed using open-source methods. Open-source also is changing how we build hardware with such projects as datacenter with Open Compute and chips with RISC-V. And, now at its Berlin OpenInfra Summit, the Open Infrastructure Foundation (OpenInfra) is introducing how open source can transform businesses and software projects with its Directed Funding model.

Directed Funding is based on OpenInfra's proven track record of creating successful open-source projects for users, developers, and companies. In particular, it uses the lessons it gained from building OpenStack, the open-source infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud; Kata Containers, the open-source container runtime using lightweight virtual machines (VM)s; and Zuul, the popular continuous integration (CI) service.

With Direct Funding, Jonathan Bryce, OpenInfra's executive director, explained we take our " successful, collaborative approach to open source and make it available to other infrastructure projects. This new Directed Funding model enables organizations to invest directly in the projects they care most about and receive project management support from our non-profit organization." 

With it, you can directly fund specific projects that are open for business. This enables you to build a sustainable community around an open-source infrastructure project. And, from there, you can build businesses.

How? First, OpenInfra is a neutral, collaborative home for open-source infrastructure projects. Its methods are driven by its sustainability model (Three Forces), its collaboration principles (Four Opens), and its large, open infrastructure network of developers, companies, and operators. 

The three forces are developers, end-users, and companies. The trick is to balance their needs and requirements so that you create a virtuous circle where everyone is happy. That's easier said than done. 

But, OpenInfra has done it. For example, Xu Wang, Ant Group's senior staff engineer, said "Five years in, I can attest to the critical role that the OpenInfra Foundation has played in nurturing the Kata Containers project and expanding its community of contributors and users. The model certainly worked for us, and I would encourage organizations that want to build a successful open-source project to consider what the Foundation offers."

And, they've done it over and over again. For example, OpenStack, launched in 2010 by Rackspace and NASA, today is one of the three most active open-source projects in the world, with more than 8,000 contributing developers and 25 million cores in production. No, it never became a challenger to Amazon Web Service (AWS), but behind the scenes, nine out of 10 of the world's top telecommunication companies use it to provide you with the phone and data services you use every day. And, OpenInfra has managed to keep about 450 organizations working on the same project. 

Can your organization do that? Probably not. 

So how does this work? Here's how:

  • OpenInfra Foundation establishes a project-specific entity to hold project funding. Its efficient framework is also flexible enough to be modified based on the needs of your project community.

  • At least one OpenInfra Platinum Member serves as an executive sponsor for the project to ensure strong alignment with the OpenInfra Foundation board and mission. Platinum Members include Meta, Microsoft, and Red Hat. 

  • Other interested organizations join the project fund. If they are not already members, they will need to become members of the OpenInfra Foundation.

  • The fund participants, as a group, decide what their contributions will be, with the goal of assembling the project's budget.

  • The fund board (representing participants) decides how to allocate the budget to best support the project, with guidance from the OpenInfra Foundation.

  • OpenInfra Foundation staff deliver services to build a community that writes software that runs in production.

OpenInfra also will help you establish both technical governance and funding governance. Technical governance helps you establish Technical Steering Committees and defines clear rules for code contributions. While funding governance establishes a governing board and decides how funding is pooled and spent.

One of the most common problems open-source projects run into as they make the jump from project to business is conflicts between developers and companies over the project's strategic direction and how it should be managed. OpenInfra's been there and done that. 

The Foundation is an expert at aligning companies that wish to work together. It provides the businesses and programmers with a framework and tools to effectively collaborate, produce code, and pool their funds in the ways that best help the project they care about. It does this by navigating relationships, understanding organizational goals, and establishing efficient and fair technical and funding governance.

Finally, OpenInfra also provides you with a legal framework to help you establish the governance needed for a successful open-source project. The framework is flexible. This enables you to set the structure that best fits your needs in ushering the project to success. The OpenInfra Foundation will guide you through this process from start to finish.

There are many guides to building open-source projects and communities. There are also many ways to combine open-source projects and businesses. But OpenInfra is opening new doors with its pairing of business and legal approaches with open-source programs.

Want to know more? Start here

Whether you're a developer with a project that you want to see succeed in business or a company that needs help moving your open-source project to the next level, OpenInfra's Direct Funding demands your attention. 

Related Stories:

Editorial standards