It’s a little-known fact, but the Apache Software Foundation – the non-profit organization that gave us such important software technologies as the HTTP Server, Tomcat, Cassandra, Hadoop and now Spark – runs on a shoestring budget.

According to Bertrand Delacretaz, director of the foundation and principal scientist at Adobe Research, the annual budget of ASF in 2015 stands at around US$1 million – most of it coming through corporate sponsors.

The figure was revealed during the ‘State of the Feather’ address at the Apache: Core conference in Budapest.

Bertrand Delacretaz at Apache: Core in Budapest
Bertrand Delacretaz at Apache: Core – Duncan MacRae, TechweekEurope

Making ends meet

In total, the ASF now manages almost 280 projects, excluding 44 ‘podlings’ in incubation stage – all on a budget that would embarrass a Silicon Valley start-up. That’s about $5,000 per project per year.

Most of the money is spent on infrastructure to support developer work, but it also includes travel assistance for contributors, publicity, legal wrangling and brand management.

Of course, that’s not the entire story. The foundation survives thanks to support of businesses that rely on its projects. Dozens of companies donate developer time and additional infrastructure services, but no one is really measuring or quantifying these contributions.

Despite the relative absence of money in ASF, the number of contributors to its projects has been growing steadily since 1999. What’s the secret?

“We provide this neutral space,” said Delacretaz. “Neutral is very important when you talk about big companies. Apache is a good place, where you have really big companies which are actually competitors, collaborating on stuff for the benefit of all. That’s a very important part of our identity.”

If you’re interested in helping the ASF - check out its website. There’s even an option to donate your old car.