C-Teams and the ARC as Community Groups

Rich Lowe asked an excellent question about OpenSolaris government in response to one of Casper Dik's answers to the DTrace Community. Here's the question, and my answer. As always, the other candidates' responses are available in the above-referenced thread.

And what would be your (the general "you", not just Casper) plans to help make the ARC and especially the C-team more practically part of OpenSolaris process, rather than a part of Sun process we're exposed to from one side, but not, so far, fully involved with?

Of the two, the ARC is much more difficult to rationalise; I'll explain why below. As for the C-teams and the more general problem of consolidation management, I'll let this text from my position paper[1] do the answering:

One of the OGB's most important tasks will be to rationalise the Community Group structure into one which will allow meaningful self-government. The centerpiece of my plan for doing this is construction of Consolidation-Sponsoring Community Groups (CSCGs). Each of these groups will be given control over an existing consolidation. This structure is not unlike that which exists today in the misnamed Nevada Community, representing ON. But that Community does not govern openly, and other consolidations are entirely missing structure under which they can be governed legitimately. Since the Constitution provides for the Community Group as the unit of independent government, each consolidation requires one to oversee its progress. The CSCGs will be responsible both for controlling the content of their codebases and for providing guidance and leadership to project teams desirous of integration. They will be required to adopt a set of rules (harmonised but not necessarily identical across all CSCGs) for integration and apply fairly these rules.

The challenge associated with the ARC (or ARCs) is that it maps poorly onto the Community Group structure. It makes little sense to me that an Architecture Community Group would sit alongside, say, an Observability Community Group. Observability incorporates a number of subsystems in the OS which in turn need to be properly integrated into each project. So would Reliability, or Virtualization. Architecture is not another such feature set but rather the way in which all those features, along with the new ones offered by the project, fit together and expose themselves to other consumers. That is, Architecture is both a superset of and yet entirely disjoint from all other CGs' areas of interest. The practical effect is substantial overlap: we would expect each CG to offer project teams advice concerning how best to integrate their work with existing features (and, for projects directly related to the CG's area of expertise, what features it should offer to others). In some ways, however, this directly conflicts with the mandate of an Architecture CG, which is to provide architecture guidance to all project teams. In the current system, an observability expert cannot override the ARC's decisions with respect to a proposed observability project. Yet under the Constitution, the Observability CG is supposed to be self-governing. The defining question is what exactly the latter CG is expected to govern, and by what mechanism - the very question the Constitution so conspicuously fails to answer.

It's easy enough in my CSCG model to simply require that all CSCGs adopt rules requiring architectural review by a particular CG just as they should require other CGs with expertise in relevant areas to review and perhaps approve each project prior to integration. Indeed, this is not unlike the system that exists today. The CSCGs do indeed have complete control over their areas of responsibility, namely, the existing consolidations. But this leaves all other CGs less equal, their endorsements subject to veto and without any code of their own to govern. A logical conclusion one could reach on this line of thinking is that CSCGs and perhaps the ARC should be the \*only\* CGs. The reality on the ground thus maps poorly to the Constitution we've been given, suggesting that the Framers either did not consider this matter in sufficient detail or intended much more radical changes in either the structure of consolidations, global review processes, or both. Mr. Fielding in fact hinted at just such an intent[2]:

We don't need to enshrine one committee's view of how C-Teams operate in an organization-wide constitution because C-Teams simply aren't relevant to \*every\* activity at OpenSolaris, and the vast majority of comments we have received so far clearly indicate that the existing consolidation boundaries are arbitrary AND dysfunctional. Personally, I am hoping that the communities feel empowered to change the things that are obviously causing them harm right now, and let the consensus process ensure that the traditions are adequately promoted and maintained over time.

Presumably Mr. Fielding and perhaps others have some grand detailed view of how all these things should be made to fit together in the rather obvious presence of existing bodies of code with no associated governing units and vice versa. Unfortunately, they've not seen fit to share that view nor to stand for election themselves. If consensus does not emerge within a few months as to an appropriate way to map the (possibly modified) existing practical devices of government onto the new constitutional structures, I'll probably favour amending the constitution rather than spinning our wheels forever trying to shoehorn OpenSolaris into a framework that may well be inappropriate to our broader goals.

At some point I'd like to hear Mr. Plocher and others more intimately involved with the operation of the ARC Community express their views on how that Community could be made to fit into the new Constitutional world of governing CGs. Their testimony will be needed before the OGB as it considers how best to restructure the Communities into meaningfully self-governing units.

  1. http://blogs.sun.com/wesolows/entry/ogb_election
  2. http://www.opensolaris.org/jive/message.jspa?messageID=99494#99494
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