Enlarge /. No one from IBM is suing because Google has added Istio to its new Open Usage Commons foundation. But they are not happy about it.

This Wednesday, Google announced a new open source initiative – Open Usage Commons, a kind of stewardship project for open source brands. The move was immediately criticized by IBM, which claims interest in Istio, one of the three projects Google launched OUC when it launched.

What is the Open Usage Commons?

Before we can really deal with IBM's beef, we need to spend some time investigating what the Open Usage Commons are trying to do. From our own FAQ:

The Open Usage Commons provide open source projects with a neutral, independent home for their project brands and provide support with compliance testing, setting guidelines for brand use, and handling problems related to brand use that projects encounter.

The Open Usage Commons do not offer any services that are outside the area of ​​use, such as B. technical support, community management, project events or project marketing.

In a way, this sounds like a standard element from the open source playbook: set up conservation to manage things neutrally and keep them free for everyone. So far, however, brands have largely been the only thing that open source projects have kept to themselves, and for good reason: starting a project's brand hurts the project itself in a way that is difficult or impossible to repair.

Red Hat, owned by IBM itself, is one of the largest open source companies in the world, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux offers an interesting case study. All RHEL source code is open source and can be downloaded, copied and reused free of charge. If you want to build the entire operating system from its own source code and distribute it as your own, you can do so – but the only thing you can't do is call it "Red Hat Linux".

Debian Linux & # 39; spitting Mozilla over the Firefox logo for decades is another interesting example of the conflict between open code and protected trademarks. In the short version, Mozilla retained full copyright on the Firefox logo – and this caused a problem for Debian, whose guidelines do not allow redistribution of non-free intellectual property. So Debian pulled the logo but left the browser intact, which resulted in Mozilla denying project permission to use the Firefox name for the resulting build. Meanwhile, Debian simply renamed its build "Iceweasel".

However, it is easy to understand why an open source project wants to protect its brands. For example, if you don't protect your brand, nothing prevents Oracle from developing a completely different product called "Firefox", which at best leads to serious confusion.

So far, it's difficult to see what Google is trying to achieve here. Branding is literally the only thing an open source project needs to protect, and this is vital. So why give up? The answer is a couple of paragraphs below:

[C] Companies wishing to offer managed versions of these projects may invest in the Project as a Service offering as this is a guarantee that they can use this brand. It is not suddenly taken away on a whim after putting together an offer.

What is not clear is how Google's Open Usage Commons actually offers this guarantee for "Project as a Service" companies – since it doesn't appear to set strict guidelines. Each of the examples in the FAQ about using managed trademarks boils down to "you must use the trademark in accordance with the branding guidelines for this project" – and that the projects themselves continue to set these guidelines.

IBM, Istio and the OUC

Istio is a platform-independent service mesh that provides traffic management, policy enforcement, and telemetry detection. It was developed by teams from Google, IBM and Lyft on GitHub as an open source project and is currently one of the fastest growing projects to be found there.

Google owns the Istio brand, but was launched publicly as an amalgamation of Google's internal project with that name and IBM's open source Amalgam8 project. At that time, IBM described the merger as meaningful because of Google's founding position as a developer at Kubernetes. Istio itself enables and facilitates, so to speak, true-to-scale communication between the containers floating in the Kubernetes Ocean.

However, according to IBM colleague Jason McGee, the initial partnership included the understanding that once Istio is mature enough, it will be handed over to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The CNCF is a non-profit, non-profit children's organization of the Linux Foundation. Submitting an open source project to the CNCF ensures that no single company can use undue leverage to influence another company that uses this project and becomes dependent on it.

IBM sees the Open Usage Commons as directly tied to Google instead of being really manufacturer-independent and manufacturer-neutral like the CNCF. It is difficult or impossible to disassemble the Linux Foundation or CNCF and find what looks like the ownership of a single company.

It's also hard to see what the future of Open Usage Commons will really look like – it was founded with a six-member board of directors, only two of whom work for Google. However, all projects that were originally donated to Commons come from Google itself. This makes it clear that before the start of Commons, no broad industry buy-in was accumulated.


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