Simon Phipps speaks at OSCON in 2012.
Simon Phipps speaks at OSCON in 2012.

Simon Phipps Returns to President Role at Open Source Initiative

It's "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" time at OSI as Allison Randal steps down and board elects Phipps for a return engagement.

The Open Source Initiative doesn't generally make a lot of news, but this week its been on a roll. On Tuesday the organization stirred up more than a little brouhaha with the announcement that Microsoft had become a member, then today it announced that president Allison Randal is unexpectedly stepping down.

In case you don't know, the Open Source Initiative, more commonly known as OSI, is an organization that's been around since 1998 with the prime goal of promoting and protecting open source software. For the later, it has the roll of keeper-of-the-licenses -- my term, not theirs -- and is the place to turn to have a wannabe new open source license receive the official seal of approval. It's also the place to turn to make sure that a new license is compatible with the General Public License, or GPL, which is pretty much a must if software released under the license is to get much developer interest.

The news of Randal's departure was made public in a blog posted on Thursday.

"All good things must come to an end, and the time has come for me to pass along the president's hat to the next volunteer," she said. "My work life has grown busier and busier in recent months, and I'm starting a PhD soon, so the time I have available to contribute to the OSI has become incredibly fractured. I'd rather empower someone else to do a great job as president than do a mediocre job of it myself for the rest of the year."

Her term was set to end in May, 2018. She had served as president since 2015.

Randal came to the table with an impressive resume. Among other things, before taking the reins at OSI she had been the chief architect of the Parrot virtual machine and spent time at both Canonical and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In addition, she currently serves as a director at the Perl Foundation and as a board member at the OpenStack foundation. Since March she has been employed by the commercial Linux distribution SUSE as an open source strategist.

The OSI board has elected Simon Phipps, a current board member and OSI's president from 2010-2015, to serve as Randal's replacement. A long time open source advocate, Phipps spent time at IBM where he founded Big Blue's Java Technology Center and later led Sun Microsystem's open source program during the time when most of the company's core software was released as open source. He is currently managing director of UK-based Meshed Insights, an open source management consulting company.

During his original time as president of OSI, Phipps is credited with moving the organization towards a membership-based governance structure. Also during his tenure, the organization began an affiliate membership program for the inclusion of "government-recognized non-profit charitable and not-for-profit industry associations and academic institutions," as well as an individual membership program.

The departing Randal said in her blog post that she is not ending her involvement with OSI. "I'll remain as a member of the OSI board, both to support a smooth transition to the new president, and to continue involvement in several active projects at the OSI," she said.

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