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Microsoft's CodePlex Foundation Moving Forward

After nearly two months of life, Microsoft's open source CodePlex Foundation is now gearing up to accept projects, but it still has some work to do.

"We believe we'll move into a more mature state in the spring," Sam Ramji, interim president of the CodePlex Foundation, told InternetNews.com.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) formally unveiled the CodePlex Foundation in September as an effort to help commercial entities bring open source products to market.

The CodePlex Foundation is a separate but related effort to Microsoft's CodePlex project site, which was launched in 2006 as a site for hosting open source efforts. The foundation is now organizing itself to tackle its mandate of helping commercial open source technology development and adoption.

The operational phase of the CodePlex Foundation is yet to come.

"We need to get a project or two into the foundation, replace me and the interim board of directors, and see the Project Acceptance Guidelines achieve traction," Ramji said. "We've got some of the operational pieces in place, but it will take time to become a mature organization. And it will take the participation and support of the communities we aim to serve."

Originally, Ramji was set to be the president of the CodePlex Foundation for its first 100 days. At the time of the foundation's creation, Ramji was employed by Microsoft as a senior director of platform strategy, but he has since move on and now holds the position of vice president of strategy at cloud start-up Sonoa.

Ramji's 100-day term runs into December, and until that term expires, he said he expects to be actively involved as interim president.

At the same time, there is an effort underway to replace Ramji as well as to propose an executive director and candidates for a permanent board of directors.

"We've had individuals put themselves forward as candidates. Others have been suggested by our current board, and companies that are interested in participating in the foundation have made suggestions," Ramji said. "We are making good progress working through the process."

Beyond leadership, the CodePlex Foundation is also working on its framework for accepting and steering projects. The foundation released a working draft of its Project Acceptance Guidelines Oct. 26th.

"Since them we've been socializing the guidelines broadly in the open source and software development communities and in discussions with corporations interested in contributing projects," Ramji said.

At this early stage, the CodePlex Foundation has hit at least one snag with its draft guidelines.

"One issue we have is getting more people to comment," Ramji said, noting that feedback is welcome "either directly by e-mailing suggestions and comments to board@codeplex.org or through the more collaborative process of commenting on the CodePlex Foundation Google Group."

That doesn't mean that the CodePlex Foundation hasn't had any comments. Ramji said that one commenter pointed out that foundation needs to speak to a global audience, not merely a U.S.-based community.

"I believe software innovation is increasingly going to come from international participants," Ramji said. "So we are looking at ways to make the guidelines reflect the spirit of international collaboration."

He added that some people also are unsure about how to get started as open source contributors.

"They are worried about choosing the right license, trademarks and copyrights, how to commit to a project and keep their day jobs, who finds sponsors for projects, security, and whether a project can have more than one sponsor," Ramji said.

Having the guidelines in place is an important mile marker in the maturation of the CodePlex Foundation, but the step that occurs after that is also a big one.

"The next step is to approve a project with a sponsor willing to bring that project into the foundation and provide support and funding," Ramji said. "Several projects have been proposed, so expect to hear more soon."

In terms of the project that could potentially end up at the CodePlex Foundation, Ramji noted that the effort is not about being a project-hosting site, but about something bigger.

"We're not a forge, and we have no interest in taking share from SourceForge, Google Code or other hosting sites," Ramji said. "We are here to enable the exchange of code and understanding. We're complementary, not competition. We expect to have projects run under the CodePlex Foundation that are hosted on Google Code, SourceForge, GitHub and others as well as Codeplex.com."