Aug 6th OpenStack Foundation Board Meeting

On Aug 6th, the OpenStack Foundation Board held a two hour conference call meeting which was open to anyone to join. The agenda was published in advance.

As usual, this my informal recollection of the meeting. It’s not an official record, etc. Jonathan published an official summary on the foundation mailing list.

Preliminaries

Alan Clark chaired the meeting and spent the first few minutes reviewing the agenda and holding the roll call. We had more than 50% of the board members, and so had sufficient quorum.

We then reviewed the minutes of the previous meeting and approved them by vote. Todd, Troy, Nick, Devin and Jim all abstained because they weren’t present at that meeting.

Patent Cooperation

Next up was a follow-on from the patent cooperation discussion at our previous meeting.

The Legal Affairs Committee had previously proposed three options that we make no change, that we implement a Google-style patent pledge or that we introduce an OIN-style cross licensing agreement.

Keith Bergelt, CEO of the Open Invention Network, attended the meeting and gave a presentation describing the OIN and how it could play a key role in OpenStack’s strategy to create an environment of patent non-aggression around OpenStack. Keith has been actively working with the Legal Affairs Committee to develop a fourth proposal for the board which would make the best possible use of the OIN.

Keith described how the OIN was formed 8 years ago by IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony to ensure “freedom of action, freedom to operate” around Linux. It has some 560 member companies who sign up to a broad cross-licensing agreement whereby any patents they hold which read on Linux is licensed to all other member companies.

The patents which are covered by the OIN agreement are those which read on the software packages listed in the OIN’s Linux System Definition. Over time, this definition has grown to include the likes of Android, WebOS and, more recently, OpenStack. The OIN views OpenStack has one of the most import projects after Linux and feels that including OpenStack in its defintiion is an obvious step.

That OpenStack is included in the OIN system definition means that there are already 560 licensees committed to non-aggression around OpenStack. Keith feels that this goes a long way to achieving the OpenStack Foundation’s goals in this area and that we should seek to make the most effective use of the existence of this agreement rather than reinvent the wheel.

Keith proposes a more formalized relationship with the Foundation, that members would be encouraged to join the OIN, that we’d do joint press releases and that there would be an ongoing direct relationship with the TC to ensure the system definition is regularly updated to include all OpenStack projects.

Legal Affairs Committee

Van Lindberg was up next to provde an update from the Legal Affairs Committee but this turned out to be a continuation of the previous discussion on patent cooperation.

Van summed up this fourth proposal succinctly – that OpenStack members get behind the OIN. He went on to describe how a difficulty with this approach is that some members of OpenStack will never be members of the OIN because the OIN fundamentally see those companies as a threat to Linux. He didn’t name these companies.

So, the question becomes how we can ensure the ability of those OpenStack members who aren’t members of the OIN to join a patent cooperation initiative specifically around OpenStack.

Van first described how OpenStack LLC (the Rackspace owned entity which held OpenStack’s before the Foundation was formed) actually joined the OIN some time ago because of concerns about the “CPTN transaction”. The OpenStack Foundation could quite easily take over this agreement and, by virtue of the fact that the OpenStack Foundation is in some sense the entity licensing the OpenStack software to everyone, the benefits of the OIN cross-license would flow to all OpenStack users.

For OIN non-members, the Foundation could create a separate, limited license agreement whereby the OpenStack related patents held by such licensors would be licensed to the Foundation and the benefits of that agreement would also flow to all OpenStack users.

Van went on to talk a little about patent trolls (a subject close to his heart), how this is a serious issue for OpenStack and how, even now, there is a troll going after Rackspace and HP over a number issues including some related to OpenStack. Van feels that the OIN does not actually protect against the threat of trolls very well, because (somewhat obviously) such trolls would not be members of the OIN.

Van raised again (this has been discussed before) the idea of a patent indemnity program whereby OpenStack members (or even just the Foundation) would contribute to a fund which could be used for the legal defence (not any settlements themselves) of any OpenStack members threatened by patent trolls for the use of OpenStack. Van feels that patent trolls often go after some weaker companies, obtain a small settlement because that company feels it’s cheaper to settle than to defend and that settlement sets a problematic precedent that the troll can then build upon. An indemnity program would encourage members to fight patent trolls and avoid precedents being established which would set the entire community up for trouble.

Eileen made the point that the OIN was created because the GPL lacks a patent license. We’re not in the same position, since OpenStack is licensed under the Apache License which includes a broad patent license. She raised concerns about the idea of an indemnity program, how it’s scope could turn out to be very large and expensive and disagreed that trolls always go after the smaller players.

The conclusion was … no decisions today, more dialogue needed.

OpenStack Training

Next up, Jonathan revisited the topic of how the Foundation can encourage and regularize the market forming around OpenStack training.

This topic was also covered in the June meeting and Jonathan felt there was good support for some of the proposals but board members had concerns and questions about other aspects. Since then, Jonathan has been talking to several board members including Brian Stevens and Boris Renski and feels he can provide some clarifications and updates. The Foundation would like to move forward with two proposals – a training licensing program and a baseline certification test.

The training licensing program would replace the use by training providers of the Built For OpenStack mark. This will allow the Foundation to have a closer relationship with training providers and help raise awareness about the availability of OpenStack training. There is broad support for this proposal
and the Foundation have a draft agreement ready to circulate to training providers.

The baseline certification test proposal was the proposal that has required more discussion but it is better understood now. The idea is that the Foundation would define a common baseline set of training which all licensed OpenStack providers must include and certify against, but that the Foundation also fully expects providers to expand upon this content greatly and compete on the unique aspects of their training.

The vast majority of what would be included in this baseline training is already covered by all training courses out there. The Foundation would not seek to force content and topics on training providers but would instead seek to add new content when it sees that training providers are already covering these new topics. It is expected that the Foundation staff and others it engages will take 6-9 months to prepare this program.

Jonathan feels a baseline OpenStack certification would ensure that there is OpenStack training which globally available, not cost-prohibitive for students in regions all around the world and provides a target for people who want to become knowledge around OpenStack.

The board moved to support the Foundation staff in its efforts to create a baseline certification testing program for OpenStack. The motion was passed unanimously.

User Committee Update

Tim Bell took the floor next to raise an issue the User Committee has been discussing in recent times.

The committee currently consists of Tim, Ryan Lane and JC Martin. While the committee is doing a great job, they feel that their limited numbers (and their limited time) is constraining their ability to achieve some of their goals.

The obvious solution is to add more members to the committee, but there’s a catch. Committee members sign an NDA and have access to some sensitive data about OpenStack deployments which are obtained through surveys with the understanding that the information is confidential. Adding significantly more members could compromise the confidence that survey responders would have in the confidentiality of their responses.

Tim has been talking with Tom Fifield about what role Tom could take (as a Foundation staff member) on the committee in order to help out, without Tom having to sign the NDA and gain access to the confidential survey results. The idea is that Tom can take on some of the responsibility to act as a go-between who ensures that issues which are identified by the committee are raised as appropriate with the developer community.

In a similar vein, the committee is exploring the idea of a structure whereby only the “core” committee members need to sign the NDA and there would be sub-groups of the committee who can get involved without gaining direct access to the survey results.

What is Core

Rob Hirschfeld gave a quick update on the “what is core” discussions he is
leading. The discussion was initially limited to the board, more recently
broadened to include the TC and Rob now plans to broaden it to include the
wider community.

Rob mentioned a flowchart he has prepared to describe some of the proposed process. He also discussed how the initial position on requiring “plugins” has evolved into talk of designating some parts of projects as “required implementations” and allowing other parts to have “alternate implementations”.

Other Updates

Todd and Rob met with the Foundation’s legal team to discuss what changes to the Individual Directors election process would be allowed under Delaware law. He will present some thoughts on this at the next board meeting.

Simon has been working with Mark Collier and Heidi Bretz to ensure that companies who have expressed an interest in applying to be a Gold Member are aware of the board’s revised expectations around new members. Simon and the membership committee still plan on re-drafting the wiki page describing the criteria for new members.

Alan mentioned that the Compensation Committee completed a mid-year review of Jonathan’s goals for the year and concluded things are very much on track. Full details were posted to the foundation-board mailing list.

The next board meeting is scheduled for October 3rd at 9am PST. There will also be an all day board meeting in Hong Kong on November 4th.

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