Role of the OpenStack Technical Committee

The OpenStack Technical Committee (“TC”) is chartered under the OpenStack Foundation bylaws (section 4.13) with the task of managing “technical matters relating to the OpenStack Project”. Its first and foremost role is therefore to define the technical governance of the OpenStack project. The current model uses a two-level structure (with project teams responsible for sets of git repositories or specific tasks, electing their own leadership) which means that the TC is not directly in charge of organizing day-to-day work. OpenStack being an open collaboration with volunteers, the TC also does not command development resources that can be applied to priorities or to meet certain deadlines.

So what is the role of the TC under the current OpenStack technical governance model? This living document aims to answer that question.

Defining the OpenStack open source project governance model

The main role of the TC is to define the model under which the OpenStack open source project is governed. Defining governance means defining the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in producing OpenStack, through the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions. It is therefore the duty of the TC to describe the community structure, systems, operating principles, and values by creating and maintaining corresponding documentation. This is done in the Technical Committee charter, the TC governance website documents and other TC-maintained publications such as the Project Team guide.

The TC is just one of the governance bodies more widely involved in OpenStack governance. An important part of its role is therefore to handle the relationships with other OpenStack governance bodies like the OSF Board of Directors, or the OpenStack User Committee.

Refining and applying the current OpenStack governance model

While the governance model itself is changed very rarely, it is constantly tweaked to better handle corner cases as they are discovered, using amendments to the TC charter, resolutions, or changes in other TC-maintained documents.

The current governance model institutes a two-level structure with project teams in charge of specific sets of git repositories or tasks. The TC is responsible for making sure the model is followed, and fair elections are held for every project team. Finally, while most conflicts should be resolved at the project team level, the TC remains ultimately responsible in case issues cannot be solved at that level, for example in case there is a dispute between two project teams on the common way forward.

Scope of the project

The OpenStack Foundation bylaws explicitly state in section 4.13 that the TC’s authority over technical matters includes the authority to determine the scope of the “OpenStack” released software.

Under the current governance model, that means the TC constantly refines the rules used to decide which teams are part of the project and which groups are independent (and building on the work of the project). It reviews applications from new project teams that want to place their work under the oversight of the TC, effectively deciding the scope of the project.

As part of this authority on scope, the TC also provides technical input to the trademark programs defined at the OSF Board level, for example by designating sections of code which are required to be present in an OpenStack installation in order for it to be eligible to use the “OpenStack Powered” trademark.

Defining global technical goals

While most technical details are handled at the project team level, you still need a body caring about the “OpenStack” experience, beyond each component user experience. It is part of the TC role to take that step back, consider OpenStack as “one platform” that users and operators choose to leverage, and define reasonable technical goals for the OpenStack community as a whole. This includes looking at gaps between established project teams, driving a common user experience (common operational behavior, limited dependencies, base quality levels, minimum feature set…), pushing cross-project initiatives and influencing its general direction. One way to achieve that is through the definition of OpenStack release goals.

Ensuring a healthy, open collaboration

The TC is responsible for making sure the OpenStack project follows the four opens and operates as a truly open collaboration on a level playing field. This includes checking that project teams follow open source licensing rules, are not artificially limiting the features of the open source software to sell a proprietary “enterprise” version, operate in a transparent and accessible manner, and encourage cultural, professional and personal diversity in contributions.

Beyond that, TC members are engaged in proactively assessing the health of the various project teams, and provide advice and help to team members.