Please see our updated and expanded guide to how Corporate Governance at the ASF works for the most detailed information.
This page is about how the Foundation works organizationally, as a corporation. This is separate from how the many Project Management Committees manage themselves and the various Apache projects. More information about the organizational structure of the ASF may be found at our "How it works" page.
The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is a non-profit organization who's mission is to provide software for the public good. While our many Apache projects build the software that we give away under the Apache License for free, the Foundation itself has a number of processes behind the scenes that keep the corporation itself running.
On one hand, many people see the ASF as either the software products they use - the http server, Tomcat, Hadoop, and over 70 more projects - or the communities and projects that they participate in, which build those products so many people use. It's also often seen as a leader in the open source world, both in terms of some technology, and especially in terms of our consensus-based, community-driven development model.
On the other hand, the ASF is also a Delaware-registered non-profit membership corporation that is recognized (in the US at least) as a 501(c)3 corporation, meaning that donations may be tax deductible. That also means that we must keep appropriate records of our corporate business, as well as maintaining appropriate governance of the Foundation and it's projects. As a corporation, the ASF may also enter into contracts, act to protect it's IP and license, and may pay for contractors or services that we supply on behalf of our projects - as well as accept donations and encourage Sponsorships!
Board of Directors
Like most corporations, the ASF is run at the strategic level by it's Board of Directors. Our bylaws specify having 9 directors that are elected yearly at our Annual Member's Meetings. Directors are all unpaid volunteers, and historically are elected from the membership, typically from those who have been members for a while.
The ASF board meets via teleconference monthly, but carries out the bulk of it's operations via the board@ mailing list. As a virtual and primarily volunteer organization, all work organizational is carried out on mailing lists, both to ensure that all directors (or appropriate officers) can participate in making a decision, as well as to allow for oversight and record keeping.
The board is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction of the ASF. This currently includes creating and maintaining a budget, dealing with legal matters, fundraising, brand management and publicity, and a few core organizational policies for our projects. Note that the board does not specify the technical direction for our projects; technical decisions are explicitly left up to the PMCs running those projects. While directors may write code for various projects from time to time, they participate in projects just like any other committer or PMC member.
The board also appoints officers of the corporation to be responsible for specific duties, just as in any other corporation. The ASF as a list of officers responsible for various corporate activities, both executive and non-executive positions. The ASF board also appoints a VP for every project to serve as the chair of that project's PMC.
In terms of setting policies for the foundation, the board primarily simply documents them and disseminates them on the appropriate mailing list. Another area the board oversees is PMC membership: while PMC chairs essentially manage membership in their PMCs directly, the board has an "ACK" process ensuring that directors can approve (or disapprove, if that were ever necessary) PMC rosters.
Executive and Corporate Officers and Committees
The board elects a Chairman (a director) and appoints a usual slate of executive officers. Officer positions are all unpaid volunteers, and serve at the direction of the board in the specific areas of responsibility for their positions. We always have a complete list of officers published. Officers are responsible both for managing the Foundations affairs in their specific areas, as well as reporting monthly status reports back to the board.
Executive officers include the normal slate of officers, including a President, Executive Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Assistant Secretary and Treasurer.
The board has also appointed a VP of Infrastructure, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of our Infrastructure team. Since our infrastructure (websites, mailing lists, source code control, wikis, etc.) is a shared resource for all projects at the ASF, it is managed centrally by the VP of Infra at the direction of the President.
The board has at various times appointed other officers for corporate-wide functions - this includes Vice Presidents to oversee Brand Management, Conference Planning, Fundraising, Java Community Process, Legal Affairs, Marketing and Publicity, Travel Assistance, and W3C Relations.
Project Officers and PMCs
Every project at the ASF is managed by a Vice President of the project, as appointed by the board. Project VP's serve as the chair of their respective Project Management Committee (PMC), who they work with to direct each individual project's direction, as well as reporting quarterly status reports to the board.
While the ASF is built as a community-led organization that prefers to use consensus, in the end the board looks to the VP of a project to ensure that oversight is carried out and to get accurate reports of the project's actions. Note that here, the board is primarily concerned that the project is being run fairly and efficiently, and that it continues to have a healthy and diverse community. Technical decisions are the purview of the PMCs themselves, not of the board.
Paid Staff and Contractors
The ASF pays both for a number of services, and for several contractors to continue to keep core functions running. Primarily we rely on volunteers for all of our work - both at the technical and project levels, and at the organizational and board levels. However maintaining a reliable and secure infrastructure to keep all of our services running requires paid staff.
Currently, the ASF contracts two full-time sysadmins to maintain our wide variety of services and machines; these contracts and hardware and bandwidth costs make up the largest part of our annual budget. We also contract for marketing and publicity services. At the moment, each of the contractors we hire are all also ASF Members.
Note that the ASF does not pay for software development on its projects; we rely on volunteers for all of our project work.
ASF Members are effectively shareholders in the corporation. Organizationally, members have the right to nominate new members, and to nominate people for director positions. Then they may cast votes at Annual and Special members meetings to elect new members and directors. Note that Membership does not convey any special abilities with regards to our projects: merit and committership on each project is determined separately by the PMCs.
Functionally, Members have visibility into the workings of the Foundation, and may view virtually all of our internal archives and mailing lists. Members may participate in, and often influence, the organization of the ASF, and the majority of officers and all directors are elected from our existing Membership. Members are not authorized to act on behalf of the Foundation formally, however they are some of our best ambassadors at spreading the Apache Way.
Note that only individuals may be elected as members, not corporations or organizations. We publish the list of ASF Members.
Committers are individuals who have been granted write access to one of the ASF's projects. Each project's PMC votes in new committers who have shown merit within their project. Committers must sign a brief Individual Contributor License Agreement, which clearly defines the terms under which intellectual property has been contributed to the ASF. This allows our projects to ensure that the products they publish can safely be released under the Apache License.
Committers are elected separately for every project; merit within one project is not necessarily transferable to other projects. Committers also have access to a one Foundation-wide committer repository, where a few extra services and tools useful for doing Apache project work are available. Committers may also list themselves in our worldwide listing of committers, as well as within our Community Development mentoring program.
More Foundation Resources
MemberVoting - how we vote in new members
BoardVoting - how the Board of Directors is elected (annually)
How It Works - detailed documentation of how various parts of the ASF work