Open Projects cuts a new trail for open source and standards

A new organization is seeking to merge industry open source efforts and standards under one roof.

OASIS, which is a global nonprofit consortium, announced on Wednesday that it has launched Open Projects, which gives its members the framework to develop the projects of their choice.

Open Projects advisory board member Chris Ferris, who is an IBM Fellow and CTO of Open Tech for IBM, said in an interview with FierceTelecom that open source groups, such as those in the Linux Foundation, have become de facto software standards within the industry, but they are not formally recognized by governments and institutions.

On the other side of the equation, standards development organizations—for example, the Metro Ethernet Forum—take too long to develop industry standards, which inhibits innovation. Currently, there isn't an organization that brings the open source and open standards processes together, according to Ferris.

"So, under the OASIS regime, Open Projects members could actually be working on an open source implementation alongside the development of that standard at the same time," Ferris said.

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While MEF, TM Forum, ETSI and various projects under the Linux Foundation's LF Networking umbrella have grown up separately, they have become more collaborative of late.

But, OASIS and Open Projects feel a need isn't being met by the current crop of open source communities and standards bodies.

"The lines between open source and open standards have been blurring for some time, and communities in both arenas have been calling for more flexibility and options for collaboration," according to Open Projects press release. "Open Projects is a new approach that addresses the need for change in everything from handling IP to governance and decision-making, from funding to establishing trust and assuring quality."

Open Projects, which was first formed at the start of this year, gives its member projects the freedom to develop what they chose, whether that's APIs, code, specifications, reference implementations or guidelines. Open Projects would help with the open source licensing process and provide a path to recognition in global policy and procurement.

While other open source projects and standards bodies drill down on a specific area of technology, and then link to other areas, Open Projects is wide but not too deep at this point. For Tom Nolle, president and founder of consulting firm CIMI Corp, Open Projects' mandate lacks a specific focus.

"The trouble here is simple," he said in an email to FierceTelecom. "An architect can design a building. With a unifying concept, a hundred or even a thousand architects can work together to design a building, but without that unifying concept, even two architects will never get any building designed. It's the same with open-source and standards. Where’s the unifying concept?"

Despite Nolle's reservations, Open Projects has attracted the likes of Comcast, Cloud Bees, Red Hat, IBM, Salesforce and even Walt Disney Corp. as members of its advisory board.

How it works

The Open Projects Advisory Council "provides strategic insight on the needs of open source projects, identifying current practices that work well and exploring new approaches where improvements can be made with a goal of curating the future of open source," according to the press release.

Oasis Chief Development Officer Carol Geyer said anyone can contribute to an Open Project without being charged. Organizations that decide to sponsor the Open Project pay anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 in annual dues based on the size of the organization.

"In designing the Open Projects program, we spent a lot of time thinking about how to balance open participation, necessary funding and fair governance," Geyer said via email. "We talked with a lot of people involved in open source projects at other organizations to get their input on what works and what can be improved. 

"Based on that input, we decided that tying participation rights and decision-making exclusively to funding is not the open approach we believe most communities want. That's why governance for Open Projects is shared between a technical steering committee—made up of community members who are not required to pay dues—and a project governing board, which is made up of representatives from sponsor organizations and from the technical steering committee. This combination ensures we have the funding to provide each Open Project with the support and resources it needs to succeed, and that critical decisions are made by both developer and vendor stakeholders."

Open Projects is launching with two projects —Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) and OpenDocument Format (ODF) Advocacy—under the Open Projects framework. IBM, Cisco, Airbus, Red Hat, Siemens and others are the primary sponsors of the first two projects. Future projects, such as blockchain, will be announced in the coming months.

"I think we can expect to see a series of drumbeat projects coming on board as people start to understand the value that this brings," Ferris said. "Not every open source project is under a foundation some where and they may find it useful to set up camp under Open Projects."

While there could be some debate as to whether the telecommunications industry needs another open source community and/or standards development body, Ferris raises a point about how standards and open source are viewed internationally.

In the U.S. and the UK, open source is well understood, according to Ferris, but not so much by the European Union (EU) and in the Asia Pacific region.

"The EU in particular is still very much driven by a requirement that something be an international standard," Ferris said. "In many cases they have a lot more boundaries that they're dealing with that within the EU itself. When you get into Asia Pacific region, China, Korea and elsewhere, international standards are basically what fuels a lot of the permit processes. The focus here is to improve the acceptance of open source developed software that can be considered and treated in the same way (as traditional standards) and has gone through the same process as an open standard, which would be much more acceptable in those markets."