In defense of Apache

Apache is great for many things, not so for others. Its proponents misunderstand its weaknesses, and its detractors misunderstand its strengths

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Hadoop: A donated success

Hadoop is a different story. It's creating an entire new industry. Hadoop is everything an Apache project should be: a community of rival companies, an increasing activity level, and an increasing number of committers. You see rivals Hortonworks and Cloudera. You also see Yahoo and other industry titans (or former titans in this case) coming together to develop this new class of software.

Like the heady days of the Apache Web Server, the opportunity is big enough for Hortonworks and Cloudera to both be successful without exclusive access to the trademark. The knowledge and skills required are hefty enough that no new barriers to entry need to exist to make a profit. This is Apache at its very finest. It will be messy and there will be kerfuffles, but how else and where else could this happen? Where else could Hadoop be both open source and inaugurate the next stage of the InterWebs? In some ways Hadoop is in fact the successor to the Apache Web Server -- or maybe the realization of what it started.

I think Apache is a very fine place to develop frameworks, establish standards, and even create new industries: HTTP, XML, Web services, big data. I think Apache is a fine place to develop frameworks that cross an industry and are needed in multiple products or projects, such as Struts and POI. Apache often suits the needs of large companies trying to develop a competitive advantage over rivals; for example, the Java ecosystem was seeded at Apache.

Apache is a great place to start your career if you have a lot of time on your hands, such as those who graduate during recessions that affect developer employment. It's also a great way to take your career to the next level if you have the skills to do it and pick the right project -- I guarantee you'll up your pay rate by contributing to Hadoop.

I don't think Apache always lives up to its purported ideals, and I don't think it can rescue a project from corporate abandonment (Beehive). I don't think the all-IBM projects are generally successful at creating communities or even projects that survive when IBM switches gears. You can replace IBM with any company -- but at Apache, it's usually IBM. I think these kinds of "business strategy" forks don't achieve much and generally hurt users.


I could never regret my time at Apache. I owe it my career to some degree. It isn't how I would choose to develop software again, because my interests and my role in the world have changed. That said, I think the long-term health of the organization requires it get back to its ideals, open up its private lists, and let sunshine disinfect the interests. My poorly articulated reasons for leaving a long time ago stemmed from my inability to effect that change.

I have a lot of respect for many of the people on the Apache board, but it's probably time for new leadership and a new perspective on what makes a successful project -- and when it should really, truly be allowed out of incubation and how to ensure private interests don't cloud judgement regarding that. The world needs an Apache Software Foundation.

This article, "In defense of Apache," was originally published at Keep up on the latest developments in application development, and read more of Andrew Oliver's Strategic Developer blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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