The Apache Software Foundation needs more than code

There was a common and recurring chorus in the keynote speeches of tech CEO’s during the first half of this decade, “Mobile, social, big data and cloud”. Whether it was EMC’s Joe Tucci, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, HP’s Meg Whitman, Salesforce’s Mark Benioff or SAP’s Bill McDermott speaking, they were emphatic that these four forces that would fuel and shape the digital era.

They were right, but they missed something. Open Source, and, more specifically, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) projects which provide some of the most innovative software on the planet, free of charge.

It’s hard to know whether big data would have taken off as quickly as it did without Apache Hadoop and all of the Apache projects around it: Apache Pig, Apache Hive, Apache HBase, Apache Phoenix, Apache Spark, Apache ZooKeeper, Cloudera Impala, Apache Flume, Apache Sqoop, Apache Oozie, and Apache Storm as well as the project’s passionate individual contributors and code committers who got, and get, their paychecks from companies like Cloudera, Facebook, Google, Huawei, IBM, InMobi, INRIA, Intel, LinkedIn, MapR, Microsoft, NTT, Pivotal , Uber, Vipshop and Yahoo.

It is incumbent for IT managers and passionate corporate developers to ask where we’d be today without the personal time sacrificed by the code committers and individual contributors. They have left their fingerprints on computing’s history. Mission-critical applications in financial services, aerospace, publishing, cloud computing, mobile, government, healthcare, research, infrastructure, development frameworks, foundational libraries, and many other categories, depend on Apache software.

After all, there are more than 350 open source initiatives housed at the ASF, the oldest is the Apache HTTP Serverproject, the most popular web server on the planet.

The most active big data project is Apache Spark. Other projects, like Apache Kafka, are inspiring thought leaders to think about the processing challenges and new opportunities that massive flows of data, interaction, and streaming apps bring to the world.

And while each Apache project introduces interesting possibilities, the Apache Software Foundation is incredible, in and of itself, because it is where the creators of each project have chosen to house, grow and nourish their work for the greater good.

They have given their confidence and trust to the Apache Way and its primary tenants:

Charity- ASF’s mission is providing software for the public good.

Community- Many of us are more effective than all of us.

Consensus- Getting good enough consensuses is often better than voting.

Merit- Those that have proven they can do, get to do more.

Open- Technical decisions are discussed, decided, and archived publicly.

Pragmatic-Apache projects use the broadly permissive Apache license.

The companies and individuals who have “invented” technologies prior to bringing them to the ASF receive great personal satisfaction from what they have achieved. Instead of looking for ways to monetize their projects, developers like inMobi’s Srikanth Sundarrajan and his team, for example, not only worked with engineers from Hortonworks (now Cloudera) to build what is now Apache Falcon, but they also brought into the ASF for incubation.

“So proud,” Sindarrajan said on the day that the Falcon project was accepted. It is a different kind of joy than what comes with a paycheck.

And Sindirajan’s pride is likely shared by the nearly 6000 ASF code committers collaborating across six continents who create world class software. In 2015 Apache projects were featured more than 400 times in Gartner Magic Quadrant reports. And consider that though some of the committers were paid by their employers while they wrote code, the acceptance of that code was governed independent of commercial influence.

What doesn’t get talked about is what will happen if the ASF runs out of capacity. While it’s not imminent that that will happen, the ASF did start a fundraising campaign inviting individuals to contribute. Not only that, but though many Apache projects are sponsored by corporations, the ASF itself, needs help, though it has made few fund raising appeals to individuals.

After all, the ASF needs more than code to run, it also needs cash. You can mail them a check, if you want, but many of us don’t even own them. So the ASF has made it possible to give via numerous other ways via credit card, debit card, bitcoin, Amazon…even donating your car. To find out more go here.

Note that there is also a corporate matching gifts program via Benevity Goodness, so you can ask your employer to help you make an even bigger difference.

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