Some open-source developers have always been skeptical of the Open Network Operating System‘s ideas of open-source, which makes ONOS’s recent inclusion in The Linux Foundation particularly irksome to them.
Namely, ONOS’s governance isn’t changing, which means one executive director and board member at ON.Lab, Guru Parulkar, still holds the final say for code decisions within ONOS.
“ON.Lab is inserted at the top of the hierarchy in all the pictures,” says one source who’s been deeply involved with open-source networking projects. “That’s the structure they had as standalone ONOS. Many of us said, ‘No, thanks.’ It’s a single leader who calls all the shots. No aspect of their governance has changed.”
To some, that’s a less open structure than an open-source initiative should have.
These kinds of complaints aren’t new. SDxCentral has been monitoring the openness of open-source projects, advocating for organizations to have clear criteria for source code to be accepted or rejected. An open governance model is crucial as well, as SDxCentral founder Matthew Palmer wrote in 2013.
In the case of ONOS coming under the Linux Foundation’s wing, the ONOS project and its creator, ON.Lab, will continue with their respective boards and their existing governance structures. The ONOS Project governance document, which was published in January 2014, is still in effect, confirms Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation.
But Zemlin says this isn’t unusual.
“This operating model is typical for open source projects, including those across the Linux Foundation Collaborative Project ecosystem,” he writes in an email to SDxCentral. “For example, the AllSeen Alliance, Dronecode, OpenDaylight, and OPNFV have an independent board.”
According to the ONOS governance document, the project is part “technical meritocracy” and part “benevolent stewardship.”
It’s the “benevolent stewardship” aspect that’s sticking in the craw of some in the open-source world. Because ON.Lab’s board of directors retains the right to select the chairman of the ONOS advisory board and the leaders of the technical steering team, ultimately ON.Lab and Parulkar still have the final say on ONOS code.
“Everybody who has any power came from ON.Lab and has worked for them for years,” says our source. “The whole thing is stacked.”
Why did The Linux Foundation agree to this “benevolent stewardship” arrangement with ONOS?
“By becoming a collaborative project, ON.Lab and the Linux Foundation can work together to bring compelling open source solutions to service provider networks — one of the last IT sectors that still does not use open source but is ripe to transition to open source,” Zemlin writes.
He adds, “The Linux Foundation will actively work with ON.Lab to evolve their governance structure based on best practices in open source communities that can scale the community involved in developing and using the code. This will take some time and require input from the community, users, etc.”
Our source has a different viewpoint: “They [The Linux Foundation] decided to solve the problem down the road.”