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Redis’ license change and forking are a mess that everybody can feel bad about

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the recent licensing change made by Redis, a popular in-memory data storage tool, from an open-source BSD license to a Source Available License and a Server Side Public License (SSPL). This change has led to a fork of the Redis project called Valkey, which is backed by the Linux Foundation and major cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Oracle, Ericsson, and Snap Inc. The article explores the reasons behind Redis' licensing change, the reactions and actions taken by various parties, and the implications of this shift in the open-source landscape.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Redis Licensing Change

1. What was the reason behind Redis' decision to change its licensing from an open-source BSD license to a Source Available License and a Server Side Public License (SSPL)?

  • Redis CEO Rowan Trollope stated that the majority of Redis' commercial sales are channeled through the largest cloud service providers, who commoditize Redis' investments and its open-source community.
  • The licensing change was aimed at preventing cloud service providers from reselling Redis as a service without contributing back to the project.

2. How did the cloud service providers and the open-source community react to Redis' licensing change?

  • The licensing change generated a lot of discussion, blowback, and action from the open-source community.
  • A fork of the Redis project, called Valkey, was created and is backed by the Linux Foundation, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Oracle, Ericsson, and Snap Inc.
  • The Valkey fork is "fully open-source" with a BSD-3-Clause license, similar to the previous Redis license.
  • Microsoft is notable for not being among the companies supporting the Valkey fork.

3. What was the perspective of individual contributors and cloud providers on the Redis licensing change?

  • According to Matt Asay, most developers are "largely immune to Redis' license change" and the companies backing the Valkey fork have not contributed significantly to the development of Redis.
  • Madelyn Olson, an AWS engineer and former Redis core contributor, expressed disappointment but not surprise at the licensing change.
  • AWS' open-source strategy and marketing director, David Nally, stated that AWS is now invested in ensuring the success of the Valkey fork rather than considering purchasing a Redis license from Redis Inc.

[02] Implications and Broader Context

1. How do shifts in open-source licensing often lead to the creation of "keep-it-open" forks?

  • Previous examples of this include OpenSearch (from ElasticSearch) and OpenTofu (from Terraform).
  • With the backing of the Linux Foundation and some core contributors, the Valkey fork is likely to evolve beyond a simple Redis replacement, and Redis itself may follow suit.

2. What is the broader context and potential implications of this Redis licensing dispute?

  • For individuals and organizations that are not gigascale cloud providers or part of a source code licensing foundation, it can be difficult to determine the appropriate course of action.
  • Both Redis and Valkey will continue to be available to the wider public, as each party is acting within legal boundaries.
  • The article suggests that there may have been alternative ways to resolve the situation, rather than the "take your ball and head home" approach adopted by the parties involved.
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