When the CodePlex Foundation named Paula Hunter its first Executive Director, quite a few industry observers let out a little sigh of relief. Hunter's hiring indicated to many that the Foundation's board of directors was serious about accomplishing its mission to foster open source development in commercial environments.
Hunter is someone who knows her way around open source. Her stint as Executive Director of the UnitedLinux consortium back in 2002 was certainly a trial by fire--many regarded this effort as a sure success, until one of the members of the consortium, The SCO Group, jumped the shark and decided to sue everybody who used, made, or even thought about Linux.
But that's another story.
The CodePlex Foundation is a non-profit designed to encourage and educate commercial software developers to start or improve their own open source projects. And, even though Microsoft is the first sponsor of the Foundation, all of the projects are "platform and technology agnostic," Hunter emphasized in a recent interview.
That's likely a response to many critics of the CodePlex Foundation (CF), who think this is all an attempt by Microsoft to deal with open source solely on its own terms. The evidence is certainly strong. Besides being the founding sponsor, Microsoft currently holds two positions on the current five-person board.
Hunter's participation within CodePlex should belie such notions. Her focus will be on getting start-up projects folded into the CodePlex umbrella so that they can be improved upon and made into true open source success stories.
The structure of projects within the CF are built around a museum metaphor, Hunter explained. Sponsors will be able to host entire galleries of projects, which can be built along a related technological theme. A virtualization company, for instance, might want to host a gallery of virtualization-oriented projects, to keep innovation and interest going in their particular field.
Because of this structure, Hunter has to pitch the benefits of the CF to different audiences.
To potential gallery sponsors, Hunter will emphasize galleries as "a bounded community of projects that could help their technology sector."
Commercial participants get a different sell. Since many of them are doing platform plays, creating an open source project is a proven way to build a solid cross-platform project.
Project owners get the value-add pitch. If there is a project that is of value within their organization or group, but it is not necessarily core to their business, donating the code to the CF will foster more development and could potentially get more work done on the project without a lot of heavy lifting.
Contrary to what you might think, the real obstacle to the CF is not the resistance of the existing open source community. Rather, it's overcoming the reticence of commercial vendors.
"It's part education and it's also providing them with legal coverage to eliminate any risk and concerns," Hunter said. "We will offer a process that streamlines open source software creation."
Given Hunter's Linux background, what brought her to the helm of the CF?
"The Linux marketplace has matured. The heavy lifting has been done," Hunter said. "Working with the CodePlex Foundation is addressing the next generation of challenges."