After spending years using open source Apache Software Foundation (ASF) technologies to help build its social networking site, Facebook is now spending its money to give back to effort.
Facebook is now a gold sponsor of the ASF, contributing $40,000 per year to the open source foundation and its initiatives. Facebook uses a number of Apache technologies, including Hadoop.
"A sponsor provides a direct monetary contribution to the ASF, which we can use for a variety of functions, such as increasing or updating our infrastructure, sponsoring project meet-ups and paying our bills," ASF Chairman Jim Jagielski told InternetNews.com. "This extends and enhances the relationship that the ASF has had with Facebook."
The ASF just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and is home to many popular open source projects including the Apache HTTP Web server. One of the hallmarks of the ASF is that it is a meritocracy for developers, and that money is not the key influencer for technical decisions.
Jagielski noted that his group is a volunteer-based, individual membership organization, and it is not possible for companies or other non-person entities to "join" the ASF.
"All code development, including governance and direction, is done by the members of the project community itself," Jagielski said. "It is also a factor of how the ASF works ... that people are recognized via their individual contribution, regardless of what company they happen to have employment with."
Under that framework, sponsors don't have any additional "pull" or "power" related to actual projects, Jagielski said.
Facebook is no stranger to the ASF, and according to Jagielski, it was Facebook developer David Recordon who approached the ASF about a potential sponsorship.
"If you read our engineering blog, you'll know that it's not possible to scale a site like Facebook simply by sharding your databases, but rather takes a combination of specialized technologies," Recordon wrote in a blog post. "Open source allows us not just to make technologies like memcached scale beyond its original intent, but to release technologies like Thrift for others to build upon as well."
Thrift is a framework for scalable cross-language services development that was originally known as Facebook scribe. It was contributed to Apache in October of 2008.
Even as a gold sponsor of the ASF, Facebook does not contribute as much to the open source effort as proprietary vendor Microsoft. Starting in 2008, Microsoft began sponsoring the ASF with a $1 million a year commitment.
The ASF would like to continue to see other organizations join with Facebook, Microsoft and others to pad its roster of sponsors.
"Our hope is that any organization that finds value in the ASF and what we do will give back to the community," Jagielski said. "Obviously, one prime method of doing this is by submitting patches and bug reports, allowing us to further improve the various ASF codebases. But we also realize that some organizations would prefer a more direct, financial way of supporting us, and we created the sponsorship program specifically to address that need."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the internet.com network.