October 12, 2016 - Brian Warner
Open Connectivity Foundation and AllSeen Alliance Merger: a Primer
To recap briefly, the Board of Directors from both organizations have agreed to consolidate operations under the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), while the open source projects will continue to be hosted at the Linux Foundation. I’ve noticed some confusion about what exactly happened, so I thought I would clarify some things in this article.
To start, OCF and the AllSeen Alliance are each non-profit entities that are responsible for the business operations of each project. In addition, OCF hosts development of the specification. Each organization has their own bylaws, membership agreement, IPR policy, and charter. By law they must be governed by a board of directors, which consists of representatives from member organizations.
One of the major differences between the two is that OCF also maintains a specification and a certification program which allows multiple implementations. On the other hand, AllSeen Alliance certifies specific releases of the AllJoyn project.
Separately, each has an open source project associated with it. Under OCF, that project is IoTivity. OCF is the sole sponsor of IoTivity, which means that OCF members are also sponsoring IoTivity; its charter is to produce an Apache 2.0-licensed reference implementation of the OCF spec. There is an open source working group in OCF which works with the IoTivity project on this. Likewise, AllJoyn is the project under AllSeen Alliance. In both cases, the funds collected from OCF and AllSeen Alliance’s membership dues help fund the operations of their respective projects, which are hosted at the Linux Foundation.
Following the open source best practice of separating technical governance from non-technical governance, each project has their own hierarchy of decision makers. While the open source projects have representation in OCF and AllSeen Alliance (via a nominated representative), they are separate projects which make their own technical decisions.
Now, getting to the merger. On Monday, it was announced that OCF and AllSeen Alliance will combine at the organizational level. This means that from a business perspective, they will consolidate under the OCF name, IP policy, bylaws, and membership terms. From a business perspective, the two have become one.
On the other hand, AllJoyn and IoTivity are still separate projects at the Linux Foundation. It’s a lot harder to merge two separate codebases than it is two organizations. For the time being, it looks like they will remain separate. This makes good technical sense, as it ensures a stable codebase for security updates to products which are already in the market based upon existing code.
A workgroup within OCF will maintain AllJoyn 16.10for now, but it will be the last version you can certify under the AllSeen Alliance IP policy. Also, as part of the merger, the Apache 2.0 license was added to the existing ISC license on the AllJoyn codebase.
With that said, the stated goal here is convergence. It has been noted elsewhere that many former AllJoyn developers are now working on IoTivity. The goal is to evolve the OCF spec and IoTivity itself to be interoperable and backwards compatible with both. So over time, the expectation is that IoTivity will be the single official reference implementation for the merged effort.
Our hope is that this will lead to a stronger, more stable, diverse community of contributors who will continue to evolve IoTivity into bigger and better things.
About Brian Warner
Brian is Director of Open Source Engineering and Strategy in the Samsung Open Source Group.