Roughly two months after taking the helm of the CodePlex Foundation, Paula Hunter is focused on clearing up the traditional misunderstanding between corporations and open-source communities to increase project participation.

Under Hunter, who joined the not-for-profit foundation as executive director in February, the CodePlex Foundation will act on behalf of companies to manage the perceived intellectual property issues around participating in open-source projects. The foundation provides project governance and legal mechanisms to give “clarity and certainty” to companies that participate in open-source projects, she said.

“A lot of people say open source has come of age,” Hunter said. “The landscape is much bigger than the community itself. In addition to OSS developers, there are software companies that develop open-source products, software companies that use open source in enterprise-class products, and commercial entities: companies and organizations that use open source, improve on open source, but who have not had a clear, defined and easy way to contribute back to open source.”

The objective is to broaden the level of commercial-developer participation in open-source projects and communities, she said. The foundation’s work complements the activities of other open-source foundations, she added, stating, “Most mature foundations have evolved to solve one set of problems; we’re addressing a much broader range of issues.”

Hunter was chosen to lead CodePlex after holding executive roles in technology companies, non-profit organizations and open-source projects, including Open Source Development Labs (now the Linux Foundation) and United Linux.

“At both organizations, she was successful in bridging the needs of the open-source community with corporate contributors,” said Sam Ramji, former interim president of the CodePlex Foundation and current vice president of strategy at Sonoa Systems.

“Her business development and marketing skills will help realize its full potential by driving a pragmatic alliance between companies that realize they need to collaborate fully with community open-source projects, developers and users in order to succeed in the modern software industry.”

CodePlex hosts collections of company-sponsored projects that become galleries when a critical mass develops, Hunter explained.

The foundation holds the IP rights to those projects on behalf of the sponsors, said CodePlex Foundation deputy director Mark Stone. Project managers maintain oversight of the code, but the foundation provides instruments to transfer intellectual property to itself, he explained. “How they host and distribute code is not our mission.”

Having nearly finalized the structure of its board, the CodePlex Foundation is accepting more projects to manage from sponsors. It established a permanent board of directors in early March. Its members include Tony Hey, corporate vice president of external research for Microsoft; Jim Jagielski, chief architect at VMware’s SpringSource division and chairman of the board of directors of the Apache Software Foundation; Stephanie Davies Boesch, director of program management for Microsoft’s developer division; and Ramji. A fifth member will be added to the board within the next month or two, Hunter said.

The CodePlex Foundation is independent from Microsoft’s CodePlex effort. “Microsoft has two seats on a five-seat board. That’s not a majority,” said Hunter. “Sam Ramji left Microsoft in September 2009; although he was there for five years, he’s always been an independent thinker. And we just added Jim Jagielski of VMware/SpringSource , an OSS veteran and free thinker. So I see as an independent entity. To support the foundation’s independence, my first and most pressing task is to broaden the diversity of our sponsor base.”

The foundation’s first gallery was the ASP.NET Open Source Gallery, which was established to support projects relating to ASP.NET. The projects include Microsoft’s ASP.NET AJAX library as well as the MvcContrib and Orchard Projects.

A second gallery, the Systems Infrastructure and Integration Gallery, was announced in March. It was established to provide tools that will help developers incorporate interoperability early in the development process, Hunter said. Its anchor project is Network Monitor Parsers.

More projects will be added to that gallery in the coming weeks, and there are projects in the pipeline for the ASP.NET gallery, Hunter said. “We are making progress in diversifying the types of projects companies are offering to the foundation.”