Progress on Open Database Alliance

During this autumn I've had the pleasure of working closely with Georg Greve, Founder and former President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. Seeing that he had just left his previous post, we realized that his experience would be invaluable to do some of the heavy lifting involved in setting up processes for this fresh association. And so it has been!

As a result, we now have mundane things like a post box and accountant in Zurich where the non-profit association has its legal home. We are finally able to accept membership applications through the new website.

Since July we've had a tremendous response of companies interested in the ODBA. Now we have much of the heavy lifting with paperwork behind us, so we can start to see how the ODBA will actually grow and work. At the moment this activity has mostly happened by people contacting Monty Program or Georg to learn more in 1-to-1 conversations, but hopefully part of the debate can soon also move into the public mailing list, as is appropriate for a FOSS organization.

In any case, over the past months, there are two features of the ODBA that clearly are interesting to people:

  1. The Reference selling program. The ODBA wants to provide a lightweight mechanism for vendors around FOSS database technologies to reference sell each others products and services. To the users the benefit of course is the ability to easily purchase
    bundles of a whole stack of products from one contact. In this regard the ODBA is a much more commercially oriented non-profit association than your average FOSS foundation.
  2. The pooling of funds to the benefit of the ODBA database projects. This is similar as how the Linux Foundation is used to pay salaries to some of the core Linux developers. At the moment ODBA takes a modest but also a flexible approach, where it is not assumed that developers would actually be hired, rather development projects could happen
    by subcontracting from the development community. However, hiring developers of course remains an option too. The logic behind this activity is that it would makes sense for the product and service vendors that depend on a FOSS database to contribute to its further development, especially if they can influence the direction of development.

Georg himself was interested in precisely these aspects when we approached him for help. It seems also Robert from Continuent has similar visions of his own.

Beyond the two points below, there have been other ideas discussed during the Summer and Autumn. For instance, there seems to be much demand for a benchmarking tool that would be 1) much easier than any of the existing ones 2) designed to measure some real world workloads, not just TPC-C, 3) better
yet, it should be easy to measure any workload, for instance application specific queries, and 4) should support all major databases (for easy comparison). This is just an example, it remains to be seen what the members will actually want to spend energy and budget on.

The final thing that is worth repeating even if it is should be clear from the above too, is that like the name suggests, the ODBA is truly designed to benefit all FOSS databases and the companies within that ecosystem. This is also a personal motivation for me, to create something which is not only benefiting current leaders like MariaDB or PostgreSQL, but that could be of benefit to some interesting upcoming databases that may well revolutionize the future of the database scene. Yes, we are in talks with such projects, and I'm always inspired by the innovative technologies out there, so it is an interesting part of my job currently.

You've done a lot of work already, but in case you wondered, there's already a not-for-profit that's designed to help IT professionals, and developing software falls under the umbrella...., which is an established 501(c)3 not-for-profit in the US.

It's a shame so much work has gone into duplicating efforts. You may want to contact Technocation to see where you might avoid the duplicate work in the future.

Hi Sheeri

Thanks for the comment - didn't immediately notice it among all the pingbacks...

Actually, we were lucky to attend an unconference session on FOSS foundations at the Community Leadership Summit 2009 unconference (prior to OSCON). We learned that there are many such 501c3:s that could act as an umbrella. But we also learned that 501c3 are public benefit foundations, and the ODBA is rather a member benefit association. (So if we had done it in the US, it would have been a 501c6.)

Other than that your point is absolutely true. If you are doing a 501c3 type of foundation, you are probably best of not doing it and rather organize your thing under one of these many "umbrella" or "software conservancy" organizations that exist precisely to help you out. Starting from scratch is a lot of work and if you can avoid it I do recommend it.

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