Written by Peter Fandel, Zowe Product Manager at Rocket Software, ZAC Chair and Open Mainframe Project Governing Board member
You may have heard mention of ZAC in recent Open Mainframe Project Zowe meetings. ZAC is not a who but rather a what – the Zowe Advisory Council. The ZAC replaces the ZLC (Zowe Leadership Committee). This is very positive change and reflects the maturation of the Zowe open source community. Whereas the ZLC was a governing body with legal control over the membership and direction of Zowe, the ZAC has a strictly advisory role with a narrower mandate.
So, who is running Zowe now? The short answer – the Zowe community is now in charge. The longer answer – Zowe is now a developer led, self-governing project, more in line with standard open source governance practices. The Zowe Technical Steering Committee (TSC) has been created with a charter that hews to the Open Mainframe Project policies and practices, and which grants the TSC the authority previously part of the ZLC’s mandate. This blog post describes the reasons for the change, the new roles of the ZAC and TSC and how they will work together moving forward.
Why the change was made
To understand why the change was made it helps to remember how Zowe came to life in the first place, born of three parents with initial contributions from Broadcom, IBM, and Rocket. The ZLC was the initial governing body set up to shepherd Zowe through its first few years with two voting members from each of the three companies. This sort of arrangement however is not standard practice for ongoing governance of open source projects one of whose central tenets is community self-governance where community means the community of contributors.
The role of the ZAC
A primary purpose of the ZAC is to translate the needs of Zowe consumer stakeholders in terms that provide the TSC clear objectives for future releases. In common business terms, it is easiest to think of the ZAC as overseeing product management for Zowe whereas the TSC oversees engineering. However, an important distinction is that the TSC has ultimate decision making authority over the direction of Zowe and the ZAC is strictly in an advisory role. The ZAC is meant to be a council of stakeholders (Product Managers, Vendors, enterprise consumers of Zowe, Universities, Other open-source projects, …) that debate and consolidate the needs and wishes of the stakeholders and communicate those needs and wishes to the TSC. As with any product management role, the ZAC also shapes and executes outward communication on Zowe and Zowe’s direction to the outside world.
Specific examples of Zowe leadership decisions or activities for which the ZAC serves an advisory role to the TSC include:
- Guiding principles to be considered
- Engaging with enterprise Zowe users to understand pain points and desires
- Projects/incubators maturity
- Future hills based on indicators of market needs
- New version considerations
- New conformance criteria considerations
- Developing outward messaging on Zowe and Zowe roadmap
- Releases MVP
- Maintaining vendor neutral policy
- New member recruitment
ZAC governance and membership
The ZAC is intended to run on a consensus basis – there is no charter, no membership list, and no formal voting process. Though we run informally and by consensus we are not without rigor. We meet at the same time every week, publish an agenda prior to every meeting, track and publish meeting minutes, and track topics and tasks with GitHub issues that are fact-based so they can be more effectively understood, communicated, and prioritized.
As a group focused on “what to build next” for the good of the z/OS platform, the ZAC is open to all parties interested in Zowe’s future. Although there is no formal list of ZAC members, we do have (by consensus) a ZAC Chair which is a rotating position changing each quarter. The ZAC Chair is responsible for managing and running meetings, publishing the agenda, and keeping minutes. Currently as of Q3 2021 the ZAC chair is me, Peter Fandel. In January 2022, hopefully someone else will volunteer to take over as chair for a quarter and so on. Other than the ZAC Chair, the members of the ZAC are those that show up and participate at our weekly meetings.
The TSC-ZAC relationship
This blog post will not go deep on the TSC’s role except as it relates to the ZAC, but a short overview is helpful to understand how the ZAC and TSC collaborate. Many capabilities in Zowe require cross squad coordination and the TSC is there to make that happen. The TSC members are all leaders of their respective squads with all squads represented. As such the TSC is mostly made up of developers focused on architecture and engineering and great developers know they can’t code and listen to the market simultaneously. For this reason, the TSC looks to the ZAC for guidance on market needs, and a TSC representative is almost always present in every ZAC meeting. Likewise, the ZAC tries to have one of its members attend every TSC meeting. This way both bodies are always informed on the other bodies’ priorities and initiatives.