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.