Apache Incubator




Process Description
The Process of Incubation

The incubation process covers the establishment of a candidate, acceptance (or rejection) of a candidate leading to the potential establishment of a Podling and associated incubation process, which ultimately leads to the establishment or a new Apache Top-Level-Project (TLP) or sub-project within an existing Apache Project.


Readers should also review the Roles and Responsibilities document for a description of the various parties involved in the Incubation process.


The first thing you will want to do is find a Champion for your project. One way to do this is to explore the Apache site to find similar projects. Spend some time reading both the projects' web pages and mailing lists. By simply lurking on the mailing lists (see Mailing Lists section in this document), you may get ideas about who you would like to ask to help you with your project proposal. However, Champions must either be ASF members or officers (see the Champion section later in this document for more on Champion criteria and responsibilities). Once you have found an eligible person who is willing to act as Champion, you can use this person to help you determine if and how your proposal can complement the ASF. If you and your Champion are convinced that your candidate project would fit with the "Apache Way", your Champion can help you to get it established.

The establishment of a candidate involves the preparation of a project description (consistent with the candidate description detailed below) endorsed by a Champion .

A Candidate project description should be submitted to the relevant mailing list(s) of a Sponsor (see the Mailing Lists section in this document). See the Jakarta Guidelines for New Projects for a list of issues that should be addressed in your proposal; also see ASF Proposal Pages for other examples. Typically a Candidate is submitted under a message tagged with [[PROPOSAL]. Such a message will normally trigger some discussions on the receiving mailing list(s). Your Champion will be involved in these discussions acting as your advocate.

As a proposer you should consider the feedback and attempt to gauge a sense of consensus. Do not be put off by extended threads under your initial post that have little or nothing to do with your proposal - however, if you feel that your candidate project is not being addressed, you may want to specifically request a decision on the Candidate by the Sponsor by posting a request to the decision making list (either pmc@{project-name}.apache.org or board@apache.org; see Mailing List section for more details). Sometimes a vote will be announced without you asking for it (perhaps you have done some homework and have a PMC member assisting you though the process), other times you may need to cut through discussions and push your request forward for a decision.


The decision to accept a project is taken on a vote by the Sponsor. The format of this vote will depend on the rules of the entity in question. Here again it helps if you have a PMC Member (or board member if the Sponsor is the ASF board) aligned with your project (preferably as your Champion) because you stand a better chance of getting feedback about what is actually happening. The Sponsor will typically take about 7-10 days before announcing a vote result.

If that vote is affirmative, the Sponsor will propose to the Incubator PMC (referencing the voting result e-mail) that your candidate project be escalated to Podling status. The Sponsor will assign a Mentor . The Mentor may, or may not, be your original Champion. If not, it is expected your Champion will remain involved during the rest of the Incubation process, providing as much assistance as possible.

The Mentor is there to protect you, but be warned - the Mentor is also holding a big stick. The Mentor is automatically made a member of the Incubator PMC, and reports to both the PMC and the Sponsor about your overall health and suitability for eventual inclusion within the Apache Community (or recommendation to terminate). However, the Mentor (with the assistance of the Champion) is also looking after you through the incubation.

One of the roles of the Mentor is to keep away the wolves - and in the case of incubation the wolf is the Incubator PMC, the policies, the process, and inevitable bureaucracy and delays. The Mentor can help you by guiding and protecting you from much of this based on his/her experience in the process and familiarity with the policy and procedures of incubation. In performing their role, the Mentor is representing the Sponsor.

Your Sponsor, represented by your Mentor, has specific responsibilities towards you and the Incubator PMC. There are a bunch of administrative and technical actions to take care of. Your Mentor is responsible for ensuring that these things happen quickly and efficiently. Also, your Mentor is going to help you out with the getting in place of the policies and procedures you use for introducing new comitters, decision making, etc. These aspects will be watched closely by the Incubator PMC as they provide a good indication of community dynamics, health and correlation with Apache practices.


As your project sorts things out and things stabilize (infrastructure, communications, decision making) you will inevitably come under an assessment by the Incubator PMC concerning the exit of your project from the incubator. Keep in mind that exit can be a good things and bad thing. Exit via escalation to a top-level project or perhaps a subproject of an existing PMC would typically be viewed as a positive exit. On the other-hand, termination is also an exit condition that may be considered. With an upcoming assessment it is generally a good idea to have your STATUS file right up to-date and to ensure that your Mentor is doing his/her job of evangelizing your project and has good picture of where you are relative to acceptance or the last assessment point. This information will help the Incubator PMC to recommend the best action for for your project.

Conclusion of a review process will be a recommendation (to the Sponsor) of one of the following:

  • termination;
  • continuation under incubation with recommendations; or
  • exit via escalation into Apache.

Note that whilst this is a recommendation, it carries a lot of weight. A Sponsor will only over-ride the recommendation of the Incubator in exceptional circumstances, and even then it is likely that the issue in question would be escalated to the ASF board for their consideration.


If you receive a recommendation for termination then you have a problem. Chances are that there are either legal or structural problems with your project that in the opinion of the Incubator PMC are not resolvable within a reasonable time frame. A termination decision is basically time to close down the project. However, you do have the right to appeal a termination decision with the Board of Directors and/or your Sponsor. You should be aware that several Members of the Board are also Members of the Incubator PMC and as such, an appeal is unlikely to be successful.


A recommendation by the Incubator PMC for continuation of incubation shall include development recommendations. The Incubator PMC has a responsibility to ensure that the recommended actions are tangible and quantifiable. For example, an assessment could be that your project has not established a sufficient community to be viable, in which case the Incubator PMC is obliged to state specific targets that they consider as viable. This does not necessarily mean that if you meet this target by the next review that you are out of incubation - but it does give you concrete achievements that you can cite. Your Mentor is also specifically accountable to you for ensuring that the recommendations for continuation are usable, substantive and tangible. If this is not the case, you have every right to appeal an Incubator decision to the Apache Board. However, if your Mentor is doing a good job, neither of these scenarios should arise.


For Podlings that aim to establish sub-projects or products within existing communities you are almost home-free. The main issues you need to deal with now is migration of your code into the target project, something you should be confident in doing based on the contacts and understanding you gained during initial establishment and incubation.

For projects aiming to be a Top-Level-Project (TLP), you have an additional obstacle, namely the ASF Board. While the ASF Board might be your Sponsor, this does not mean they have formally accepted you as a TLP. To establish a TLP you need to draft a board motion that identifies the project scope, mission and charter. You can submit the motion to the Board using the board@apache.org email address. Well-prepared projects will have already developed contacts with members of the Board so this should not be a surprise agenda item. Keep in mind that the Board can approve your motion as supplied, amend it, or reject it. If you are rejected then you need to sort this out with the Incubator PMC and allies you have developed during the incubation process. In other words, for a TLP objective the Incubator PMC okay is only half of the story.

However, in practice, assuming you are building contacts with members in Apache, the Incubator PMC, and the ASF Board, the transition from Podling to TLP should be a smooth and painless process.

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