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Developing Standards at the OGF
It's sometimes hard to figure out how to get involved in the standards activities at OGF. How is one supposed to make sense of all the different working groups, areas and their relationship to each other, let alone understand the process that drives publishing the OGF document series or forming new working groups.

With some guidance, it's not too difficult to get an idea of how working groups operate within OGF, and to get some idea on how to participate in existing working groups, how to start your own working groups, and how to produce OGF documents.

Working Groups, Areas and the Standards Council

The first thing you need to understand before getting involved is how things are organized.

Standards are developed within Working Groups. There are normally two or three co-chairs of any given working group. It's the job of the co-chair to coordinate the activities of the working group, which includes writing and maintaining the working group's charter, setting meeting schedules, moderating these meetings, coordinating the delivery schedule for produced documents and being the contact point for group activities, both from within the group and from outside the group. OGF has a very open process, so working group members can come from all backgrounds, and don't even need to be members of OGF to participate in the work. Decisions in the groups are made by consensus, as there is no concept of voting within OGF working groups, and group chairs are instrumental in helping guide the group to consensus.

Working groups are categorized into Areas. Areas allow us to group together activities that are related to each other. Currently the OGF has the following areas: Applications, Architecture, Compute, Data, Infrastructure, Management and Security. Each area has one or two area directors (or ADs), who's job it is to guide the working groups in their area as to the details of the OGF working group and document processes. The area director also acts as a liaison between the working groups, the standards council, and the rest of the OGF management functions.

All the area directors, together with the Vice President of the OGF standards function and the OGF document editor, make up the Standards Council. The standards council meets bi-weekly to review working group and document progress. In the OGF document process the standards council plays the role of final reviewer of all documents, making sure that the documents produced by working groups fulfill the requirements of the organization to become part of the OGF document series (as documented in GFD.152). For working groups, the standards council reviews progress to make sure that the groups are sticking to their document delivery schedules and that the documents they produce are within the scope of the charter that the group defined. The standards council will also approve the formation of new working groups, making sure that the scope of any new activities don't overlap with existing activities, and that they fall within the scope of the OGF itself.

To see the full listing of active areas and working groups, see the OGF Areas/Groups page.

Getting Involved

If you are interested in participating in a particular area, use the links above to help you find the working groups that are relevant to you. If you're not sure, feel free to contact the area directors for a particular area, the VP of Standards, or send email to standards@ogf.org.

OGF working group activity is open to anybody. Meetings are normally held via weekly or bi-weekly conference calls with regular face to face meetings held at OGF events. Between the meetings, email lists are the primary communication mechanism. As a rule of thumb, it is suggested to "listen in" on the conversations for a little while to orient yourself with the subject matter of the group, and to get a feel for the stage of document development that a particular working group is at. If you can, read existing draft documents and examine the mailing list archives to see if topics of interest to you have been discussed already (and perhaps resolved), or if there are some details you feel need to be considered. Feel free to contact the working group chairs to introduce yourself, and to ask any questions about the group and its documents.

Forming New Working Groups

If it is the case that there is no existing working group that is applicable for a given subject area, it might be an occasion to start a new working group. The detailed steps for starting a group are documented in GFD.34, but in general, a new working group is formed using the following high level workflow:
  1. The people who are proposing the new group organize a BoF session at an OGF event. The purpose is to gauge the interest of the community in pursuing work on the particular subject. If there is not enough community interest, the standards council might push back on the group formation. Some BoF sessions are very preliminary, where the organizers just have a kernel of an idea for a subject area, while others can be quite organized, where the organizers have even created a first draft of the working group's charter and deliverables.
  2. If there seems to be enough community interest, a mailing list is formed that consists of the BoF attendees (and any others who wish to join). This list is used to discuss the text of the new group's charter, determine the deliverables of the group, and to sketch out a preliminary schedule for producing the documents. It is important to spend some time at this stage, as once the charter is accepted by the standards council, it is fairly fixed, and not easy to change (without potentially re-starting the group formation process). The group's co-chairs are also chosen at this time. It is strongly recommended to engage the area directors (who will be identified by the standards council) so that the formation process is followed correctly.
  3. The standards council will review the charter and schedule of deliverables of the new group, and either accept the new group, or reject the new group. Reasons for rejection include not enough community interest, too much overlap with another working group, or perhaps a feeling that OGF is not the proper organization to support such an activity. At this point there may be some back and forth between the standards council and the new group to refine the charter, all overseen by the area director for the new group.
  4. Once approved, the new group is given its permanent mailing list, the group is created in the OGF document management system, called GridForge, and the group's charter and deliverable schedule is displayed on the OGF web site.
In general, all these steps should be completed between the OGF event where the initial BoF is held, and the following OGF event (where the new group can be announced). It is also important to note that those who organize BoF sessions and form working groups should understand that it is their responsibility to spend time on and within the working group, and that forming a working group is only the first step of the potentially long and involved process of developing specifications.

Producing OGF Documents

There are two sorts of processes associated with producing documents for the OGF document series. The first is the OGF Document Process as document in GFD.152, and the second is the informal process applied by an individual working group for producing draft documents.

The official document process defines a timetable of steps that need to be followed once a document has been submitted to the OGF document editor as a draft document. The timetable includes various review and comment periods, that allow the draft's authors to garner community consensus that the document represents the current thinking of the OGF community. This is especially important for standards track documents, since these specifications are intended to be implemented and used to enable interoperable software stacks. An important role in this process is the one of the OGF document editor. The OGF document editor manages the "pipeline" of documents submitted to the OGF document process, and guides working groups through the detailed steps they need to follow to publish documents.

The informal processes that working groups follow are not defined anywhere, but there are certain techniques a group can follow that will help them manage their document production.
  • Make sure you have someone responsible for shepherding a given document. This means someone who is the go to person for making changes and making sure the document fulfills the requirements of the OGF document process.
  • Use document version control. GridForge provides this capability.
  • Record document issues to be fixed/addressed in the GridForge trackers. Not only does this help a group keep track of issues to be fixed, but it also provides a record of choices and decisions that can then be reviewed by new working group members.
  • Make sure that working group members publicly state sections of the document they are working on. Version control can help, but version control alone doesn't resolve conflicts.
  • Keep your area director up to date on your progress. They really are there to help you.
For more information about the OGF document series, take a look at the OGF document overview page.

Summary

This document provides a high level view of how standards are developed at the OGF. As with any summary, many details are documented elsewhere, so please do follow the referenced links. If there is a question that is not answered here, or in other documents, don't hesitate to email standards@ogf.org.






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