TARS: Contributing to an open source microservices ecosystem


Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin recently spoke at Cloud Native + Open Source Virtual Summit China 2020. We’d now like to republish his opening comments and a guide on how to get involved with the TARS project, the open source microservices framework.

The pandemic has thrown our global society into a health and economic crisis. It seems like there are conflicts every day from all over the world. Today, I want to remind you that open source is one of the great movements where collaboration, working together, and getting along is the essence of what we do. 

Open source is not a zero-sum game, but it has had an incredible impact on us in a net positive way. I like to remind everyone that open source is public goods that will be freely available to everyone worldwide, no matter what wind of political or economic change brings us. The LF is dedicated to all of that. 

Today, we are working hard to help folks during hard times, expanding our mentorship programs with over a quarter of million dollars of new donations to allow people to come in and train themselves on new skills during this tough time. We had a wonderful set of virtual events with thousands of people from hundreds of companies from countries worldwide working together. 

We want to bring the power of open source to help during these times and have several new initiatives that we are working on. Most notably, our recently launched LFPH initiative, which has started with seven members: Cisco, doc.ai, Geometer, IBM, NearForm, Tencent, and VMware, and it’s hosting exposure notification projects such as Covid-Shield and Covid-Green, which are currently being deployed in Canada, Ireland, and several U.S. states to help find and reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

We are also working on a considerable number of new initiatives, which I will talk about. Still, I like to remind you of what we are here to talk about, which is cloud computing, and how much cloud computing has impacted all of us. Microservices are an essential part of that. In China we are seeing the TARS project; the microservices framework is really taking off. 

Two years ago, TARS joined the Linux Foundation, and ever since its community has been growing and new projects and contributors have been coming in. The TARS project provides a mature, high-performance microservices framework that supports multiple programming languages. We will talk more about the TARS Foundation in a little bit, but the microservices ecosystem has been growing and quickly turning applications and ideas in scale.

In addition to TARS, we have been seeing amazing work going on in the open source community. It begins with things such as the Software Package Data Exchange specification (SPDX), which was recently contributed as an international specification to the ISO/IEC JTC 1 for approval. This will help us track the usages of open source software across a complex global supply chain and reaffirm our commitment to the global movement. 

We also see growth and projects with recent releases, such as our networking project, the Open network automation platform Frankfurt release, which is being used to automate the networks and edge computing service for telecommunication providers, cloud providers, and enterprises. 

We‘ve seen new projects join our organization. One good example is MLflow — this project was contributed to our organization from Data Brick. This project has had an impressive community with over 200 contributors, which has been downloaded more than 2 million times. MLflow is part of the LF AI initiative. It will be a neutral home and open governance model to broaden the adaptation and contribution of things like MLflow. We have also seen new projects come to our organization, such as the FinOps Foundation, the consortium of financial companies. We are working together to grow the use of open source throughout our global financial system. 

It’s impressive to see all the different projects that have been coming. And today, I’d like to introduce the TARS Foundation formally. TARS has been an amazing project, and in just the last few years, I’ve noticed that developers here in China are for the first time incubating and sharing new open-source projects in China and the rest of the world. 

And the rest of the world is watching the progress of open source projects and seeing fantastic work. We are so proud of the work that is coming out of TARS. 

You know, Just like the Linux Foundation is about more than Linux, the TARS Foundation is more than just TARS. It’s a microservices ecosystem. 

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cancel the Linux Foundation Member Summit this Spring, and we were unable to announce the TARS Foundation at that time. 

But today, the Linux Foundation is proud to announce again that the TARS project has become the TARS Foundation, an open-source microservice foundation within the overall framework of the Linux Foundation, and its outcome has been rapid growth for both the TARS project and projects associated with TARS. TARS has really taken off, and it’s just amazing to see the amount of development. 

We hope the TARS foundation will create a neutral home for additional projects for solving significant problems surrounding microservices, including but not limited to:

Agile development, DevOps best practices, and the comprehensive governance that we have will enable multi-languages, high performance, scalable solutions.

It is my pleasure to present what the TARS Foundation has achieved in the open source community. 

There are many companies whose contributions are instrumental in establishing TARS’ microservices ecosystem. The TARS Foundation is proof of that. Currently, the TARS Foundation has Arm and Tencent as premier members and five general members: AfterShip, Ampere, API7, Kong, and Zenlayer. 

In terms of TARS applications, it serves more than 100 companies from different industries, including Edge, E-sport, Fintech, Streaming, E-commerce, Entertainment, Telecommunication, Education, and more.

Furthermore, the TARS Foundation is striving to expand its microservices ecosystem, and it’s incorporating more functions such as Testing, Gateway, and Edge, to name a few. So far, the TARS Foundation has more than 30 projects.

Developers around the world are starting to realize that the TARS project is amazing and contribute as such. There are 12,000 developers actively using TARS. Also, 150 developers contribute code to TARS projects, from companies like Arm, Tencent, Google, Microsoft, Vmware, Webank, TAL, China Literature, iFlytek, Longtu Game, and many more.  

An overview of the TARS framework and how you can contribute to the open source microservices community

What is TARS? 

TARS is a new generation distributed microservice application framework that was created in 2008. It provides developers and enterprises with a complete set of solutions to build, release, deploy, and maintain stable and reliable applications that run at scale.

In June 2018, TARS joined the Linux Foundation umbrella and became one of its projects. On March 10th, 2020, it was announced that the TARS Project would transition into the TARS Foundation

“a neutral home for open source microservices projects that empower any industry to quickly turn ideas into applications at scale”.

The TARS Foundation’s goal is to address the most common problems related to microservices application, including solving multi-programming language interoperability issues, mitigating transfer issues, maintaining data storage consistency, and ensuring high performance while supporting a growing number of requests.

Many companies have successfully used TARS framework from diverse industries such as fintech, esports, edge computing, online streaming, e-commerce, and education, to name a few.

Here is a complete timeline of the TARS Foundation’s development:


The TARS Foundation’s contributor ecosystem

Initially developed by Tencent, the world’s largest online gaming company, the TARS project has created an open source microservices platform for modern enterprises to realize innovative ideas quickly with the user-friendly technology in the TARS framework. 

In March 2020, the TARS project transitioned into the TARS Foundation under the Linux Foundation umbrella, aiming to support microservices development through DevOps best practices, comprehensive service governance, high-performance data transfer, storage scalability with massive data requests, and built-in cross-language interoperability. TARS has a mission to support the rapid growth of contributions and membership for a community focused on building a robust microservices platform.

The TARS Foundation provides a great platform for developers who are interested in contributing to an open source project. The organization extends different opportunities for developers to contribute to open source projects and the possibility to take on leadership roles and create major contributions in the broader open source community. 

There are Contributor, Committer, Maintainer, and Ambassador roles in their open source ecosystem, each having different requirements and responsibilities. 

How to become a Contributor

To get involved with TARS open source projects, you can first become a Contributor by participating in software construction and having at least one pull request merged into the source code. 

There are several ways for software developers to engage with the TARS community and become contributors:

    • Help other users and answer questions.
    • Submit meaningful issues.
    • Use TARS projects in production to increase testing scenarios.
    • Improve technical documentations.
    • Publish articles on applications and case studies related to TARS projects.
    • Report or repair the bugs found in TARS software.
    • Write source code analysis or annotate. 
    • Submit your first pull request.

Here are the steps to submit your pull request:

    • Fork the project from the TARS repository to your GitHub account.
    • Git clone the repository to your local machine.
    • Create a sub-branch.
    • Make changes to the code and test it on your local machine.
    • Commit those changes.
    • Push the committed code to GitHub.
    • Open a new pull request to submit your changes for review.
    • Your changes will be merged into the master branch if accepted.
    • Now you did it! You’ve become a TARS Contributor, and you will receive a Contributor t-shirt! 

How to become a Committer

A Committer is a contributor who has made distinct contributions to the TARS repositories and has accomplished at least one essential construction project or has repaired critical bugs. He or she can also take on some leadership opportunities.

The Committer is expected to:

    • Display excellent ability to make technical decisions.
    • Have successfully submitted and merged five pull requests.
    • Have contributed to the improvement of project code quality and performance.
    • Have implemented significant features or fixed major bugs.

After meeting the above requirements, you can submit a Committer request:

    • STEP 1: Provide your proof of the above criteria under Repo ISSUE.
    • STEP 2: Submit your pull request after you receive a response with instructions
    • STEP 3: Once your application is accepted, you will become a TARS Committer!

As a Committer, you are able to:

    • Control the code quality as a whole.
    • Respond to the pull requests submitted by the community.
    • Mentor contributors to promote collaborations in the open source community.
    • Attend regular meetings for committers. 
    • Know about project updates and trends in advance.

How to become a Maintainer

Maintainers are responsible for devising the subprojects in the TARS community. They will take the lead to make decisions associated with project development while holding power to merge branches. They should demonstrate excellent judgment and a sense of responsibility for subprojects’ well-being, as they need to define or approve design strategies suitable for developing subprojects. 

The Maintainer is expected to:

    • Have a firm grasp of TARS technology.
    • Be proactive in organizing technical seminars and put forward construction projects.
    • Be able to handle more complicated problems in coding.
    • Get unanimously approved by the technical support committee (TSC).

As a Maintainer, you have the right to:

    • Devise and decide the top-level technical design of subprojects.
    • Define the technical direction and priority of sub-projects.
    • Participate in version releases and ensure code quality.
    • Guide Contributors and Committers to promote collaborations in the open source community.

How to become an Ambassador

Passionate about open source technology and community, Ambassadors promote and support extensive use of TARS technology to a wider audience of software developers. Ambassadors’ expertise and involvement in TARS projects will also acquire greater recognition in the community. 

The Ambassador can:

    • Become a general member of the TARS Foundation.
    • Participate in TARS Foundation’s projects as a contributor, lecturer, or blogger.
    • Engage with developers by presenting at community events or sharing technology articles on online media platforms.

Looking forward

Ultimately, the TARS Foundation encourages a contributor to becoming a member of the governing board and the Technical Support Committee (TSC). At this level, you will focus on the organization’s strategic directions and decision-making as a whole.

If you are interested in learning more, you can check out their websites: GitHub.com/TarsCloud or TarsCloud.org


Contributing to open source projects has many benefits. It strengthens your development skills, and your code is reviewed by other developers who can give a new perspective. You are also making new connections and even lifelong friendships with like-minded developers in the process of contributing. This is the open source model that has built many tech innovations that all of us enjoy today. Its sustainability depends on a free exchange of ideas and technology in our global community. Open source value and innovations are embedded in developers like you who can attempt development challenges and share insights with the broader community.