OSF Reorganizes

Organizers hope to open up process, speed projects

Leaders of the UNIX industry have agreed on the essentials of a reorganization plan for the Open Software Foundation (OSF) that will drastically reduce staffing, give the Common Open Software Environment process a new home and might give OSF a new name.

Details of the plan were scheduled to be announced at UniForum '94 in San Francisco, today (Wednesday) at 8:15 a.m. in Room 309 of Moscone Center.

The reorganization, code-named Org'94 in preliminary documents, has been spearheaded by the three main OSF sponsors who have also been active in COSE: IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Digital Equipment Corp. Their purpose appears to be fourfold:

  • To slash the mounting expenses of OSF, whose funding has recently fallen most heavily on a decreasing number of large companies, particularly those listed above

  • To attract new sponsors by lowering the cost of sponsorship

  • To speed up and re-energize the development projects still under way at OSF by putting them, one by one, under a new business model

  • To give COSE a place to live and try to shed what is now acknowledged by some as a perceived lack of openness in COSE. The COSE process will, in effect, now disappear, to be replaced by a reinvigorated OSF that organizers say will have the resources to move open systems ahead to the ultimate benefit of the end user.

    The number of employees at OSF is expected to be reduced to about half the current 330, as development projects at the six-year-old consortium are gradually farmed out to one company or another. The in-house development staff would include about 40 technical people. The new organization would also provide each project with project management services, but each new project could have different sponsors, who would share the cost of that project.

    While giving COSE a more accountable framework, organizers clearly hope the new organization will result in an increased number of projects being introduced. Preliminary plans called for existing projects to move to the new business model, although the organizing committee noted that existing development schedules were expected to be met. The transition would proceed as follows:

  • The OSF/1 version of UNIX would move in June after the release of OSF/1 release 1.3.

  • The Motif graphical user interface would move in August after the release of Motif 2.0.

  • The Distributed Computing Environment would move in November after the release of DCE 1.1.

  • The Distributed Management Environment, which has never been released, would move immediately.

    Organizers have been working on the OSF overhaul since last fall, first in the NewOrg Organizing Committee consisting of members from IBM, Novell, HP, AT&T (NCR), Fujitsu, Sun, Hitachi, DEC, Bull, Unisys and ICL. Those efforts were built on by the OSF Committee on Organization, comprised of many of the same members, with additional input from OSF staff members. Exactly which companies would appear on the list of executive sponsors remained to be decided days before the official announcement.

    OSF's cost is now about $5 million a year for HP, DEC, IBM and Hitachi America. Members of the new organization would pay annual fees of $5,000 to $25,000 per year. Allied sponsors and executive sponsors would contribute $200,000 to $1 million per year, respectively and would get greater board representation and the opportunity to sponsor any project.