A call to action for the OpenStack community

Go vote on OpenStack Foundation bylaws

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When open source projects grow, their governance models must evolve to support them. We’ve written on the governance of the OpenStack project before, but an important event taking place this week is to make some modifications that might make a big difference.

Taking place this week, concurrent with the 2015 elections for individual members of the OpenStack Foundation Board of Directors, is a vote to change three important pieces of the OpenStack Foundation bylaws. I've summarized the proposed changes below, but you can read a much more in-depth explanation of the main change from OpenStack's technical committee, which also includes links back to some of the relevant conversations which helped create the current proposal. There is also a good summary of all three proposed changes on the OpenStack wiki.

Redefining what defines OpenStack

The primary change being proposed is a change in the very definition of what OpenStack is. Rob Hirshfeld, one of the leaders behind the DefCore effort, gave us some insight into the discussions which precipitated these changes in an interview last July.

As OpenStack exists now, there is a core set of projects that are what is officially called OpenStack, which are called 'integrated'. To many, getting a project accepted as 'integrated' is the ultimate measurement of success, and OpenStack created an incubation program to help projects which are headed in this direction. But there are also a number of community projects out there which, while related to OpenStack and potentially an important part of an open source cloud implementation, aren't considered core. Some are general enough of tools that they may someday move in the direction of becoming a core project, but many just don't fit the definition.

And the definition of 'core' meant different things to different people. It held specific connotations to release managers, packagers, operators, developers, and others about how stable the project was, how critical it was as a pillar to the project, and other measures. Some core components could be used independently as stand-alone tools, and others required all of the rest OpenStack to be properly used.

To address this, a bylaws change is proposed to allow the Technical Committee to work through some more precise definitions for OpenStack components, by creating a set of tags or labels to describe various OpenStack projects. There are some complexities to this, around who will handle trademark concerns, how to make the transition, and of course, what set of terms will OpenStack use to communicate to the wider community what OpenStack really is. You can read the exact language of the proposed change for more details.

Removing a size limit from the legal committee

Probably the most minor of the proposed changes, it is proposed that the Legal Affairs Committee, which helps the OpenStack Foundation deal with issues like copyright, trademark, and licensing, have the limit on its membership be removed. The committee is currently limited to five members, but in practice, more attend, and the committee could potentially be expanded. You can also read the exact language of this proposed change.

Setting a smaller quorum for future changes

To make changes to the bylaws of OpenStack requires 25% of individual members to participate in the vote, and at least a simple majority of those participating to vote in favor of the proposed change. When the OpenStack Foundation was both younger and smaller, achieving this quorum was likely easier, but as the pool of eligible voters grow and some move away from the project as time goes on, reaching quorum becomes more difficult. To combat that, this proposed change would mean that only 10% of the individual members would be required in order to take action, the same percentage required for electing directors. While this number may seem small, keep in mind that the last individual member election turned out fewer than 15% of eligible voters. You can read the exact language of the proposed change to see more information.

Don't forget, you'll also want to select board directors as well. Regardless of who you vote for in, and whether you support the changes, the most important thing is that if you’re a member of the OpenStack Foundation, you need to vote! If the proposed changes don't receive votes from at least a quarter of the eligible electorate, they can't move forward, and it will be increasingly difficult to make future changes. Polls are open through 1700 UTC on Friday, so please hurry.

To learn more about the candidates who are running for individual seats on the Board of Directors, you can review candidate biographies, see who nominated them, and read a Q&A with a standard set of questions asked of each candidate on the board elections website.

Didn’t get a ballot but think you should have? Email the foundation and let them know.

About the author

Jason Baker - I use technology to make the world more open. Linux desktop enthusiast. Map/geospatial nerd. Raspberry Pi tinkerer. Data analysis and visualization geek. Occasional coder. Cloud nativist. Civic tech and open government booster.