'Podling' Apache projects are spending longer in the incubator

Out of 30, four retired and only seven have graduated this year

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ApacheCon Stewards of the Apache Software Foundation are mildly concerned that many nascent projects are spending longer in the incubator, putting pressure on limited mentoring resources.

In the 12 months up to November 2016, ASF oversaw 30 new "podling" incubator projects, of which four were retired and just seven graduated. Jim Jagielski, director and co-founder at ASF, said the graduation rate has fallen compared to previous years, causing him to ponder why so many projects were apparently stuck.

So-called "podling" projects operate under fewer regulations than full-fledged projects. Grown-up projects are expected to have contributors from multiple organisations and a diverse range of job functions, for example.

Jagielski told El Reg that projects are taking longer to mature partly because "complexity and size is increasing". Nascent projects need more mentoring, a scarce resource. This is why the growing backlog is an issue.

Other open-source organisations – such as the Linux Foundation and Eclipse Foundation – offer a legal umbrella, but ASF is different because it also provides training and mentoring to early-stage projects. ASF projects graduate once a community is built, among other factors. IP protection and licensing requirements also need to be trashed out.

Project graduation through Apache has historically taken a year but can sometimes be achieved in three months, like in the case of Sub-version, ASF's version control system.

Many of the most committed Apache developers met up in Seville, Spain, this week for the Apache Big Data and ApacheCon events. Apache Big Data ran from Monday to Wednesday and ApacheCon picked up the baton on Wednesday afternoon running until Friday.

Big Data is important to Apache but in reality represents just 8.6 per cent of ASF topics on discussion forums and email lists. "Apache is not just a web server, Java or Big Data," according to Jagielski. "It's incredibly diverse."

In total the Apache Software Foundation has 175 committees supporting 294 projects, seven of which retired in the year ending November 2016. "This is no bad thing because sometimes retirement is well earned," Jagielski added. ®

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