Announcing the Open Source Robotics Alliance


OSRA_logo

The Open Source Robotics Foundation, aka Open Robotics, is pleased to announce the creation of the Open Source Robotics Alliance (OSRA). The OSRA is a new initiative from the OSRF to ensure the long-term stability and health of our open-source robot software projects.

Using a mixed membership/meritocratic model of participation, the OSRA provides for greater community involvement in decision making for the projects, and in the engineering of the software. This mixed model allows stakeholders of all types to participate in and support the OSRF’s open-source projects in the way that best matches their needs and available resources, while still allowing the OSRF to receive the financial support it needs for its projects. The OSRF Board of Directors has assigned responsibility for management of the OSRF’s open-source projects to the OSRA.

The centre of activity of the OSRA will be the Technical Governance Committee (TGC), which will oversee the activities of the Project Management Committees (PMCs). Each PMC is responsible for one project; there are four PMCs being established with the OSRA to manage ROS, Gazebo, Open-RMF and our Infrastructure. The TGC and PMCs can also create sub-committees as needed. The TGC answers to the Board of Directors of the OSRF, ensuring the Board retains final oversight of the OSRF’s projects and activities.

This structure, and the use of paid membership to provide financial support for open-source projects, is not new. It is a commonly-used model amongst open-source non-profit organizations such as the OSRF. We are walking a well-trodden path, following in the footsteps of such organizations as The Linux Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, and the Dronecode Foundation.

As part of announcing the OSRA, we are pleased to also announce our inaugural members. We wish to express our gratitude for their early support for our vision. The inaugural members are:

We have also received commitments to join from organizations such as Bosch and ROS-Industrial.

The transition of governance to the OSRA is in the final stages of preparation. We expect to commence operation on the 15th of April, 2024. Between now and the 15th of April there may be some small disruptions as we organize GitHub permissions, calendars, mailing lists, and so on. Once the OSRA commences operations, our four PMCs will take over the day-to-day operations of their respective projects.

To help you understand the OSRA and why we’re doing this, we have prepared several documents you can read and reference at your leisure.

You may also find the following formal documents useful.

Because this is the initial year of the OSRA, the OSRF Board has selected people to fill the posts that would normally be elected by various bodies. The following people have kindly agreed to fill these roles:

  • ROS Project Leader: Chris Lalancette
  • Gazebo Project Leader: Addisu Taddese
  • Open-RMF Project Leader: Michael X. Grey
  • Infrastructure Project Leader: Steven! Ragnarok
  • TGC Supporting Individual Representative: Steve Macenski
  • ROS PMC Supporting Individual Representatives: David Lu!! and Francisco Martin Rico

Additionally, Kat Scott will be filling the role of OSRF Developer Advocate assigned to the TGC. There will be further announcements of participation in the next few weeks as we finalize the lists of initial Committers and PMC Members for each project.

We know you will have questions that we were not able to think of before-hand. We want to answer these questions as best we can, so we have prepared two ways for you to ask your questions and get some answers.

  1. We have created a second thread where you can post questions you would like answered. The OSRF team will work to get an answer for each question, and the answer will be posted in this announcement thread, to ensure it doesn’t get lost amongst the noise.
  2. We will be holding a live Question and Answer session at 2024-03-20T23:00:00Z2024-03-21T00:30:00Z. This session will be attended by the OSRF team and moderated by Aaron Blasdel. We will post detailed instructions on participation closer to the time.

Finally, if you or your organization is interested in joining the OSRA as a paying member and supporting the future of open source robotics, you can apply right now. See the section on joining on the OSRA’s website for more information. We look forward to working with our members and all other contributors and users on growing open source robotics on the sound foundation that the OSRA will provide.


A recording of the live Q&A held with @Vanessa_Yamzon_Orsi and @gbiggs is available on our Vimeo site.

47 Likes

I’m curious about the Alliance’s intentions with non-flagship projects like Rviz, TF, URDF, launch, and the like. They’re largely stable (though I’m sure some have not-to-be-ignored-forever needs for the following 10 years) but if the original developers and formerly-Open Robotics maintainers are moving on long-term, is there a long-term strategy to keep these chugging forward under the Alliance structure?
@smac

Rviz, TF, URDF, launch, and similar tools are all a part of the ROS Suite, and so will be managed by the ROS PMC. The former OSRC staff may move on over time but currently are still heavily involved.

As with all of our other projects, we hope that the new structures we’re putting in place will encourage greater community involvement in the development and maintenance of these tools. This is what will allow us to move away from a small number of engineers supporting everything, and towards a large number of engineers doing less individually but more as a whole.

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What should we short hand be referring to this as? ‘The Alliance’, OSRA, etc. how should we think about it in addressing OSRF vs the Alliance? The lingo caused some confusion with Open Robotics, OSRC, and OSRF, so starting off with some lexicon you’d like us to use could reduce frictions later.
@smac

The Open Source Robotics Foundation is the non-profit organization. It has many projects under it. Some are directly managed by the foundation. Some of the most visible that are directly under the Foundation are ROSCon and TurtleBot. The OSRF is delegating the oversight of its 4 open-source software projects, ROS, Gazebo, Open-RMF and Infrastructure, to the Open Source Robotics Alliance.

  • “Open Robotics” is an overarching brand which is not specific to any of the individual components.
  • “Open Source Robotics Foundation”, “OSRF”, and “the Foundation” refer to the non-profit organization of which OSRA is a part.
  • “Open Source Robotics Alliance”, “ORSA”, and “the Alliance” refer to the collective projects, members, and technical governance structure.

Does the Alliance have any initial ‘stake my flag here’ goals for the future that you can share for us all to get excited about (and possibly get community contributor interest to make happen!)?
@smac

The main goal of setting up the OSRA is to create an effective forum to facilitate collaboration across the community. We are looking to grow and facilitate a robust community with a stable open source ecosystem that can be relied upon. We encourage anyone who has something that they want to share and work on to join in any of the capacities and bring what they are most passionate about working on to the table.

The TGC will begin working on a long list of improvements to processes that need to be made, such as modernizing the REP process. Individual projects will continue on their existing roadmaps for the next six to twelve months. The OSRA is a long-term plan, rather than an immediate leap to new short-term goals, so if you have something you want to achieve, there’s no better time than the present to get involved.

The live Question and Answer session will be happening at 2024-03-20T23:00:00Z2024-03-21T00:30:00Z. This session will be attended by the OSRF team and moderated by Aaron Blasdel. We will be available throughout the event time to answer your questions about the OSRA.

Questions will be asked during the session. To ask a question at any time, use the “Q&A” tab in Google Meet. Your question will be sent to the review queue, where it can be considered for asking by the moderator. You can also vote for questions from others to increase the likelihood that they will be asked and answered during this Q&A. The moderator (Aaron) will approve questions, and choose the next question to ask the OSRF team each time. To ensure a smooth Q&A, only the moderator and the OSRF team will be able to speak during the Q&A.

You can access the event in the Official OSRF Events Calendar. Here is the Google Meet information for joining:

Meeting ID: meet.google.com/ayv-yntv-vpf

PIN: ‪195 693 858 4219#‬

Phone numbers

We look forward to seeing you in the Q&A and answering your questions!

1 Like

Am I right to understand that the Projects have no “mission” or “goal”? In the OSRA charter, there is a list of requirements from each project, and it is just name + organizational stuff. No mention of anything close to a “mission” or “goal”. How can the Project be sure it is still on track, or that its moves lead toward something meaningful? I guess quarterly meetings in TGC are not enough for this. And the inidividual Project charters are not helpful in this.
@peci1

Each Project Management Committee is responsible for setting and maintaining the roadmap for its project. The TGC, through its oversight of the PMCs, is able to review and provide feedback on project roadmaps. Because projects need to adjust to changing user needs and changing technologies, these variable roadmaps are not suitable for putting into the project charter, which is a fixed document. This is why each project charter explicitly requires the project to provide a public roadmap.

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I don’t see any explicit means for cross-project collaboration or coordination. Yes, there can be SIGs or WGs for this, but wouldn’t it be beneficial to create more formal requirements for the cooperation? What I have on mind is mostly ROS + Gazebo, because these projects tend to get closer and then further apart and then closer again and so on. It would really help to have a strong statement saying something like ROS + Gazebo should be a seamless combination. This could be used to e.g. finally decide that the IgnitionGazebo libraries will become a core part of ROS. At least some of them really make a lot of sense inside of ROS, like Math or Rendering. Without coordination between the two projects, this seems impossible to happen.
@peci1

Although there is a subset of the community that looks for a strong interaction between them, ROS and Gazebo are and always have been separate projects with separate requirements and user groups (in fact, Gazebo is older than ROS by about five years). However, Gazebo is not intended to be the only simulator that ROS can be used with, and through ROS is not the only way to use Gazebo.

The TGC is designed to facilitate coordination between projects, and to guide projects when there are opportunities for interaction and collaboration that are not being exploited. Following these high level discussions, the PMCs for the projects can refine their roadmaps and potentially create working groups to manage the relevant work.

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I don’t see a clear direct way for orgs to provide FTEs. Imagine company ACME becomes a platinum member and they want to support the development by dedicating a developer. Do I get it correctly that ACME has to pay their fee and then separately pay the developer (ACME’s employee) for trying to become a Project Commiter? Is there no more direct way for companies to “provide” a developer? (I assume there isn’t and it was a goal after the non-functional TSC FTE dedications were evaluated)
@peci1

You are correct that membership in OSRA does not grant any developer rights such as committer rights. Such rights belong to the meritocratic part of the OSRA structure, and must be earned by the individual for the project independent of their employer’s OSRA membership or their affiliation.

Having said that, as with any open source project, you do not need to be a Committer, or be on a committee, to contribute. Any company that wants to assign an engineer to contribute to a project can do so without needing to interact with the OSRA. The projects will continue to develop and work in public and take contributions from everyone. In fact, a need for more contributions from community members rather than the core engineers is one reason the OSRA was created. Anyone can open pull requests and issues, fix bugs, and develop new features. The ROS 2 TSC was formed under different participation requirements; the decision to adopt the mixed membership and meritocratic model for the OSRA and the mechanisms surrounding it are independent of the ROS 2 TSC.

Is it allowed that ACME contacts a Project or OSRF and agrees with them that they would hire ACME’s developer for a concrete task? Because Project and OSRF have budget for hiring devs, it would seem logical, but it kind of seems to circumvent the other arrangements (but I guess this is what Intrinsic will do?).
@peci1

The OSRA does aim to raise funds to hire developers for tasks to be agreed on by the PMC and TGC for a project. However, the decision as to which vendor to hire for said tasks will not be dictated by that vendor’s membership or non-membership in the OSRA. An OSRA membership does not give priority treatment for what you describe, which is a service transaction between the OSRA and a developer.

2 Likes

Would you consider introducing membership discounts for certain individuals? For example, the ACM membership distinguishes professionals, professionals from developing countries, and students for their membership. Other organizations have similar policies. I think this is useful to foster the diversity of supporting individuals.
@doganulus

We are not offering membership discounts at this time. However we will continue looking for ways to facilitate Individual Supporter memberships.

As a reminder, it is not necessary to be an Individual Supporter member to participate in the OSRA or in the ROS ecosystem. Individuals in our community may contact our Developer Advocate, @Katherine_Scott , to share their ideas. You may also reach out to OSRF management or the Project Leaders. Community contributions are always welcome.

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Where’s the place of academia in the governance structure? It doesn’t seem very probable that any academia would pay the high membership fees. However, academia has long been a core part of ROS, sometimes even giving back important functionalities of ROS. But without a representation, who will make sure academia’s interests are being incorporated?

@peci1

How to approach academic institutions in convincing them to become OSRA members or at least supporting orgs? You probably know their budgets are limited and compartmentalized a lot. What should I say to my head of department/dean to convince him/her to support OSRA?

@peci1

Academia’s interests are represented in the TGC by the Associate representative (see Article 4.6 in the OSRA Charter). This person coordinates with all Associate members, who include non-profit organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions, and brings their opinions and concerns to the TGC.

We specifically created the Associate membership level to address the limitations of academic and non-profit organization budgets.

Academia is indeed a crucial component of the ROS community. We have identified that starting in-depth learning of ROS at colleges and universities, and even at lower educational levels, is crucial to producing knowledgeable roboticists. In addition, we know that many excellent ROS-based projects are started in educational institutions. We also know that ROS education and continuity in maintaining ROS projects in the academic field have challenges. We would like to work with the academic community to address these and their other concerns, which is why we encourage both academic institutions and individuals to join the OSRA.

For concrete technical contributions, academic institutions participate in the same way and on the same level as everyone else: by making contributions to the projects through pull requests, and potentially becoming Committers and PMC Members. Organizational membership in the OSRA is not required to contribute.

Separately, we also plan to improve OSRF programs related to ROS education and academia. As you may or may not know, Sabine Hauert is a member of the OSRF Board, and we greatly benefit from Sabine’s academic experience, insight, and guidance.

1 Like

Are the projects expected to define some “typical use-cases” which they’d like to provide full support for? E.g. in ROS 1 the typical use-case was running a Turtlebot or PR2 in real over wifi or in Gazebo locally. Everything from ros_control up to rviz was tested quite a lot for these scenarios. With the move towards ROS 2, this use-case got lost and replaced by more professional use-cases which is IMO one of the reasons why the hobby community considered ROS 2 a bit more hostile than ROS 1 (fortunately, this seems to be getting addressed with ROS 2 J-turtle).
@peci1

Projects will use any and all useful input to define their roadmaps. ROS 2 is intended to be more generally-applicable than ROS 1 was (ROS 1 was specifically designed to run on the PR2 and similar; the TurtleBot was a later application). For this reason, we don’t expect ROS 2 to specifically target one type or category of robot. ROS 2 works well on a wide variety of robots and we have full support for the TurtleBot 4, courtesy of Clearpath Robotics.

1 Like

The current ‘Community Working Groups’ will have a name change to just ‘Community Groups’. Is there anything that will change in terms of how the OSRF/A will see and acknowledge them?
@KimMcG

Our stance towards these groups will not change. They are organized for various reasons by members of the community without any input from or control by Open Robotics, and this will not change. To facilitate these groups, they will still be able to have their events added to the Community Events calendar, and post about their activities on Discourse.

2 Likes

What’s the plan with the budget ? Now, that there is one, what are concrete examples, of things that might benefit from it. Can PMCs now request funds for special jobs / developers ?
Very special question, is a membership to the OSRA considered a donation to a non profit organization, that is tax refundable by german law ?
@JM_ROS

Membership fees collected by the OSRA will support the maintenance and continued development of its projects.

The first priority is to “keep the trains running” by covering the infrastructure for our projects. This includes buildfarm maintenance, hosting, and staffing costs. Following that are development costs for projects. Identifying and recommending priorities and appropriate expenditures for its project will be one of the duties of each PMC, with the TGC making funding decisions based on balancing the needs of all projects. These expenditures may include paying for technical writers, developers, and other technical staff. We hope to raise enough membership funds to accommodate all project needs.

OSRA membership is covered under US IRS laws for 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations. We cannot speak to German tax law, and we recommend that you consult your tax advisor.

For those who were unable to attend the live Q&A session, a recording is now available on our Vimeo site.

Let’s say someone wants to be part of a working group. Where to start ? Is there some onboarding process for developers wanting to contribute ? Should they contact the Project Leader of the working group directly ?
@vanmalleghema

Working groups are open to anyone in the community. OSRA membership is not required to participate, and there is no formal “membership” in a working group (except for the WG Chair, who will be from the parent PMC that chartered the Working Group).

Each PMC will charter its own WGs as and when necessary. The WG Charters will be publicly available, and the calendar of their events (such as WG meetings) will likewise be available to the public. If you want to participate in a WG’s activities, simply attend one of its meetings and volunteer your services.

1 Like

One non-voting rep is not very impactful representation for academia
@peci1

This is a relatively common approach to bringing the views of academia into a decision-making process. By being able to have a voice in the discussion, they can make sure that any issues are not overlooked. Academic input and academia’s views are often a leading indicator of what commercial needs will be in the future. It is therefore in the interests of the community, and especially the commercial members of the community, to listen to academia’s views and take them into account.

Additionally, as was mentioned in the questions thread, a lot of academic work is in making concrete contributions back to the projects through valuable source code contributions, documentation contributions, and so on. Participation in this way does not require membership in the OSRA, is entirely based on merit, and allows someone to climb right to the top of a project’s direct management. It is feasible for someone from academia to achieve this; for example a graduate student would be able to go from starting to contribute to the project, earning Committer status, and elevating to being a PMC Member well before graduating.

I don’t see it explicitly in the charter, but I’m guessing the non-voting representatives may be allowed to speak at the meetings (seat and voice, but not vote)?
@scpeters

Yes, all seats in the TGC have the right to speak and voice the opinion(s) of the members or project they represent. Non-voting just means that when a formal vote is held, they do not cast a vote.