Presto Foundation compared to Single Vendor-Driven Open Source Projects

Why Project Neutrality Matters

Steven Mih, Cofounder and CEO, Ahana

PrestoCon Day was last week on March 24, and it was an incredible event with lots of great speakers, great attendance, and positivity around the Presto community. I gave a lightning talk called the “Top Ten Reasons to Use and Contribute to Presto.”

In Letterman style, it’s a read out of each reason, starting from 10 and counting down to 1. Number 9 was:

Presto is neutrally governed with the stated principle that no one individual or company can control the project.

At this point in my presentation, some attendees spammed the chat thread with links claiming that Trino has neutrality, implying that Presto does not. (Here’s a snippet of that song if you’re interested:)

This blog will share data points on why this claim on neutrality is false.

First off, what is Neutrality?

Some say the word “neutrality” with a tone of righteousness, implying freedom or independence of some sort. But that isn’t what the word means. As a noun, “neutrality” simply means impartiality. That when there is a decision to be made there isn’t support for one side vs. another.

Presto Foundation is neutrally-governed

Here’s two data points that show Presto is neutrally-governed: 

#1: Linux Foundation’s Presto Foundation has adopted these principles since Dec 2019: 

Slide from PrestoCon Day Opening Presentation

#2: The Presto Foundation Governing Board operates with these principles, with oversight from Linux Foundation. They have grown and diversified Presto Foundation membership from 4 member companies to 10 member companies today. They have worked with the project’s Technical Steering Committee to grow representation from 2 companies and to 5 companies today. 

Presto is controlled by multiple end-user companies and vendor companies with a common set of principles and Linux Foundation oversight. 

So Presto is a neutrally-governed OSS project.

Single vendor-driven OSS projects don’t have neutrality

Single vendor OSS projects are ones where the majority of committers work for one vendor company – see companies like MongoDB, Elastic, and Starburst. In this case, OSS projects are tied to vendors and their commercial agendas – they are not impartial, so they are not neutral.

With that in mind, here are two data points that show Trino is a single vendor-driven project:

#1) The Trino Software Foundation owners are Martin Traverso, Dain Sundstrom and David Phillips:

“The foundation will be led by the three original creators of Presto: Martin Traverso, Dain Sundstrom and David Phillips.” (source: press release)

#2) The Starburst cofounders and CTO’s are Martin Traverso, Dain Sundstrom and David Phillips.

Trino is in a foundation that is controlled by cofounders of one vendor company, so it is a single vendor-driven OSS project.

Therefore, Trino does not have neutrality. 

Why Neutrally-Governed Open Source Matters to You

For a Linux Foundation open source project, neutrality principles give users and developers confidence that they will be treated without a commercial agenda. In practice, some examples are:  

  • Breaking changes to the code base have to be proposed and agreed.
  • Your code contributions will be viewed purely on their technical merit. 
  • Your ability to become a committer is not limited by a vendor agenda.
  • More community innovation at the core of the project, not just peripheral features.
  • The project’s open source license will not be changed. 

I’ve been an employee in 3 different single vendor-driven OSS projects before and have seen the kinds of decisions that are made in those circumstances. The common pattern is what I call the “EE vs. CE” internal debate between sales and developers on how to balance the open sourcing of new features in the Community Edition (CE) while keeping the money-making features proprietary in the Enterprise Edition (EE). As the company grows there’s almost always a shift to the money-making features of the company. 

Join the Presto community! 

We believe in Presto and the community benefits of a neutral governance model. 

The combination of stated principles and oversight has helped Presto flourish, instead of leaning towards the agenda of any one individual, set of individuals, or company. The Presto Foundation works impartially together as a community.

Bridging the gap to bring two Presto communities together: Welcoming Starburst Data to the Presto Foundation

Steven Mih, Co-Founder & CEO

This week at Ahana we announced our company launch and vision to further grow and evangelize the PrestoDB community alongside the Linux Foundation and Presto Foundation with founding members Facebook, Uber, Twitter, and Alibaba. Also this week, Starburst Data shared a blog announcing that they joined the Presto Foundation. 

As news of Ahana and PrestoDB circulated in outlets like ZDNet, Datanami, and many more, we kept hearing the same question come up, one that community members like Thomas Spicer at OpenBridge asked in his recent blog: Why are there two Presto projects and how many do we need?

To provide context, today there are two separate Github repos, two Slack channels, two websites for Presto, and two foundations. First, there’s the original PrestoDB with Linux Foundation’s Presto Foundation. Second, there’s the similarly-named fork PrestoSQL with Presto Software Foundation, which was started and controlled by the new co-founders of Starburst Data. Whoa. 

You may be thinking, “wow, what a hot mess!” And you wouldn’t be alone. I’ve talked with many developers who feel similar and just want to code without all the confusion! Gale Hashimoto & Chiara Portner at Hopkins Carly recently blogged about open source project naming conventions and how they often advise developers. 

Fortunately, the situation is looking like it will soon be resolved.  

The Linux Foundation is one of the most experienced organizations in helping bring together developer communities. Arguably Linux Foundation is the spiritual center of open source, along with Apache Software Foundation. And the Linux Foundation has achieved unity numerous times, some examples being with Linux itself and with container image formats via the Linux Foundation’s CNCF. 

While some of this may feel like “yawn-inducing inside-baseball”, in my view it matters a whole lot. Just look at what the Linux and Kubernetes projects have achieved for the greater good of developers worldwide. 

Transparency is one of the key tenants of the Linux Foundation’s Presto Foundation (see their three main principles in the image below). Underlying the principle of a united community is an idea that software development needs to thrive, and that isn’t the case when efforts are duplicated across multiple project code bases.

Since late December of last year, I’ve been aware of many meetings and continuing efforts between Linux Foundation’s Presto Foundation and the Presto Software Foundation to align with the above principles. Over the last few days however, a breakthrough in bridging these two communities has occurred. While we won’t know the reasons for some time, I suspect that Ahana may have been the catalyst.  

I look forward to welcoming Starburst to the Presto Foundation and for the benefit of the community, I hope we can see the confusion end with: 1 foundation, 1 primary code base for new development, and 1 community.