A look at the Apache Software Foundation

A Look into the Lab

Innovations occur, among other places, in Apache Labs. A list of Labs projects is available [18], along with a short explanation and a link to the code in Apache's SVN repository. The relevant information is in either a README.txt file or, more often, in an XML file called doap.rdf. A few example projects from Apache Labs are discussed here.

Framework Alike [19], written in Java, Python, and Scala, should make it possible to identify similar images automatically. It combines the use of several tools to accomplish this: OpenCV for machine vision, the machine learning software Apache Mahout, and the search engine Lucene. OpenCV is used to discover visual descriptors in images. Mahout breaks these down into visual words, which Lucene then indexes.

Mouse [20] is the Python implementation of Apache Release Audit Tool (Rat) [21]. Specifically, Mouse recognizes licenses in a project's source code to ensure compliance. Unlike Rat, Mouse does not have any Java dependencies, thanks to Python.

Clouds [22] is described as an "architecture, testing, and documentation project" for bringing Apache applications to the cloud. Specifically, it serves as a glue to Apache CloudStack and Apache applications to better integrate them into CloudStack.

If you look at the other projects, however, it is clear that many of them have already left Labs or are "idle." Because some of these projects have been in existence for eight or nine years, they have probably simply been decommissioned.

From the Incubator

The projects in the Apache Incubator [23] that want to make the leap to top-level projects look much more promising. Groovy [24] is one of the more well-known projects in the Incubator. The object-oriented language for the Java platform has been around since 2003; the current version is 2.4. This spring, Groovy moved into the Apache camp as an Incubator project after the owners of Codehaus [25], an open source hosting service, abandoned the business.

You may have also heard of Apache Wave [26], a software framework push-started by Google for real-time communication and collaboration using an XMPP-based protocol. Google separated from the project in 2010, and Apache accepted it into the Incubator. The main product is the server-based Wave In A Box (WIAB). It hosts and distributes waves composed by users via a wave application, including forum or email threads, instant messaging conversations, and wiki articles.

Ripple [27] wants to make itself useful as a testing and debugging tool with the design of HTML5-based mobile applications, among other things, using a browser-based mobile phone emulator. It currently supports run-time environments such as Cordova and WebWorks.


Although, obviously, a few inactive experiments are dozing in Apache Labs, the projects in the Incubator and the top-level projects seem to be in good shape. The ASF as a whole also appears to be in good health and seems to have found financially and organizationally viable methods to deal with the growing number of projects.

It is no coincidence that the organization is reminiscent of Linux kernel development. Like the Linux Foundation, the ASF also increasingly owes its success to the financial commitment of large companies who outsource their code to the foundation. This approach certainly proves to be useful for the projects: In-house statistics indicate a rising number of code suppliers.

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