back to article Redis has a license to kill: Open-source database maker takes some code proprietary

Database maker Redis Labs this week moved the Redis Modules developed by the company from the AGPL to a license that combines Apache v2.0 with Commons Clause, which restricts the sale of covered software. The licensing change means that house-made Redis Modules – RediSearch, Redis Graph, ReJSON, ReBloom and Redis-ML – are no …

  1. Tinslave_the_Barelegged
    Pint

    Why....?

    Why can we not have mainstream journalism dealing with complex controversies as thorough as El Reg journalists produce? The range of responses garnered and the way they are presented is exemplary, especially as this issue will rear its head repeatedly over the next few years, and won't be closed down by a specific view.

    1. andy 103 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Why....?

      "Why can we not have mainstream journalism dealing with complex controversies as thorough as El Reg journalists produce?"

      "It's a shame the Daily Mail haven't covered this story" - Nobody, Ever.

      1. xanda
        Joke

        Re: Why....?

        Can just imagine the Daily Mail headline now:-

        Open Source Code Routine Seen Topless by Swimming Pool - looks fab after 6 months on the Atkins Diet..."

        ;-)

    2. JLV

      Re: Why....?

      See, I don't fully subscribe. The article would be much better if we were told a bit more about the context rather than just citing critics.

      OK, Redis wants to make money. We get it. So, what is going on?

      What is Redis's license on their code? AGPL is mentioned, but the main github repo is BSD-3. Redis Lab modules are Apache. https://github.com/RedisLabsModules/RediSearch/blob/master/LICENSE. Is there any GPL anywhere? AGPL, by its nature, should have the topic of "giving back code to the community" covered, even for cloud vendors. Though it would do nothing for Redis' coffers.

      What is the Commons Clause thingy and what does it do? How does it compare to the other licenses? How does it interact with GPL, or BSD, if applied to the same code? What is Redis biz plan and how are they transitioning the code (if it was *GPL*)? Are they respecting their contributors' rights? (yes, if BSD, possibly disputable if GPL, but we need to know more about Commons Clause). Is this a freemium deal where you need to subscribe to use the latest stable code but older versions are up for grab? Walled-off modules that will be pay-only? Dunno. Why should I agree/disagree with Google's stance here?

      No, most of the extra info here is quotes from people who don't like the move, at length. I don't mind them quoted, but that's not the only side to this story. As we've learned from Github, having a massively popular OSS product/service does not magically make you immune to having to pay your bills and salaries and it behooves us to recognize that, unless you want to see more takeovers or disappearances of valued OSS ecosystems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why....?

        > See, I don't fully subscribe.

        A fine example of critical reading. Upvoted.

    3. mrtom84

      Re: Why....?

      Agreed, So glad it isn’t just copy paste jobs from twitter as per most MSM

    4. Geoffrey W

      Re: Why....?

      RE: "Why can we not have mainstream journalism dealing with complex controversies as thorough as El Reg journalists produce? "

      The more serious journalists do, just never about subjects that you would like them to, such as this one, since no one outside the tech or FOSS communities cares about or understands the intricacies of open source licensing. I'm not sure I'm all that interested either, to be honest. I lost interest about half way through the article. I mainly come for the cat fights.

  2. Lusty

    Suicide

    Time for a fork then. In a year nobody will remember Redis and AWS/Azure will switch to a forked version which will become the new default. Fighting Amazon isn't generally a worthwhile endeavor, and closing source that people (probably including Amazon and MS employees) have contributed is just a dick move.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Suicide

      A fork of the last AGPL version sounds like the right solution here.

      Note that the Affero General Public License is already designed to limit use of the software in hosted platforms - requiring that any platform which uses that software also distributes its source code.

      This means that Redis Labs are not complaining about cloud service providers using the software and not contributing their patches: they are complaining that they don't get a cut of the revenue stream. That's fine for them, but what about all the other contributors to the software who also don't receive any revenue from its use?

      EDIT: technically they're not "closing source". Rather, they are removing all your rights to use the software in any commercial setting. It's back to the days of "free for personal, non-commercial use only". Once the Commons Clause has been applied, the fact that the remaining licence is Apache 2.0 is pretty moot.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Suicide

        A fork of the last AGPL version sounds like the right solution here.

        As the AGPL apparently hasn't helped the company achieve its aims then this suggests that you can't do this by pimping the licence. Open source software that comes with strings is basically just lawyer bait.

      2. Michael Strorm

        Re: Suicide

        > "That's fine for them, but what about all the other contributors to the software who also don't receive any revenue from its use?"

        Unless they're complete mugs, I'd assume they're not likely to contribute to Redis' subsequent non-Free (#) versions unless they're compensated appropriately. (That's assuming they're prepared to work with Redis at all).

        Meanwhile, they'll also have learned a lesson about the risks of contributing to a project where the owner could do something like this- either because they required signing over copyright (which would be necessary under the GPL, but I'm not sure about Apache) or because the license permitted it.

        They still have the option of forking the current (pre-proprietary) version, and I'm guessing this is what most of the existing non-Redis contributors will work on in future.

        (#) You say that 'technically they're not "closing source"', but- assuming that's purely the opposite of "open sourcing"- then it depends on how you defined the latter in the first place. AFAIK the *intended* definition was broadly similar to that of "free software", albeit with different ideological connotations.

        The fact that the term "open source" has been subsequently interpreted more literally by some- merely "source is openly available"- is what's led us into the position where we're discussing whether a system that is no longer by any reasonable measure "free"- i.e. effectively proprietary- is still somehow "open source". It's not, in the intended sense, but the ambiguity is one I'm sure the proponents of the term "free software" would argue is a problem.

    2. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: Suicide

      I think you're right there, it's not like Amazon and Microsoft don't have the cash to maintain their own fork. Taking open-source projects back in house pretty much always results in someone creating a new open-source fork.

    3. ckm5

      Re: Suicide

      All this is going to result in is fragmentation. It's not good for open source but the fundamental problem is that people expect to be paid for what is, in fact, a voluntary contribution.....

  3. Justin Clift

    Wait and see

    While some of the frothing-at-the-mouth OSS advocates ;) will blindly dismiss this as bad, it's an attempt to solve a real problem.

    Sure, it may go poorly. But also it may work, or provide useful information to Redis to determine a real working solution.

    Let's give them some time to see how it goes in the real world. If they turn out to be idiots about it, we can grill them later. ;)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Wait and see

      "it's an attempt to solve a real problem."

      The real problem seems to be that Redis (and presumably others) jumped on the open source bandwagon without thinking through the pros and cons and are now trying to get off it again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wait and see

        The real problem seems to be that Redis (and presumably others) jumped on the open source bandwagon without thinking through the pros and cons and are now trying to get off it again.

        And if Redis had been written and sold as a commercial product - even one with source released and licensed free for non-commercial use - how successful do you think it would have been?

    2. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: Wait and see

      Redis has no business model, that's the problem. This isn't going to do much other than remove their control over the project, because Redis is no longer the main project for the caching system as of right now. This is an attempt to try to save a non-functional business, but attempts like this have failed many times in the past.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Wait and see

      "While some of the frothing-at-the-mouth OSS advocates ;) will blindly dismiss this as bad, it's an attempt to solve a real problem."

      I'm not blindly dismissing this as bad. There can be good reasons for moving your software to closed-source. What I'm calling out is the serious and transparent nonsense that they're spouting while doing it. Just be honest about it, that's all.

    4. thames

      Re: Wait and see

      Redis Labs are going to what is called an "Open Core" model. This is where the main software project is open source (in this case Redis itself), but add-on modules are proprietary (adding the Commons Clause to Apache is equivalent to). If you don't use the add-on modules then it doesn't really affect you.

      A number of other companies do this, Oracle MySQL is perhaps the best known. There aren't however many well known examples because there simply aren't that many successful examples of Open Core as a business model. It really only seems to work in cases where the main software system has a very narrow and specialised market where there is direct contact between the software creator and the customer, and there aren't many third parties interested in creating add-ons. Perhaps the most successful "open core" example is Google Android where the base OS is open source but Google Play Services is proprietary. There aren't a lot of other successful large examples however.

      I'm not sure this is really such a big change to what Redis was already doing however. The reason that most companies use an AGPL license rather than a standard GPL license is so they can charge customers a fee for selling them a non-AGPL version (unlike standard GPL, AGPL is less convenient to use on proprietary web services).

      In the case of Redis, the base database was and remains BSD. Some of the add-on modules doing things like full text search however are changing from AGPL to Apache + Commons Clause. The latter apparently achieves the same intent (from Redis Labs's perspective) as the former when used in "cloud" operations as opposed to enterprise data centres which were Redis Labs' traditional market for add-on products.

      Redis Labs' main problem is that their core customer base of business enterprises is to a large extent moving from their own data centres to cloud operations. Since the cloud vendors are increasingly providing the core software infrastructure as well as the hardware to run it on that removes a lot of their traditional customer base contact, and the ability to charge support fees along with it.

      This follows general long term industry trends as lower layers of the stack, from hardware to operating system to databases, increasingly become commodities. Profitability increasingly comes from more specialised software higher up the stack which has not yet become a commodity, or from services which are inherently more difficult to commoditise due to economies of scale.

      Older vendors selling legacy software or software/hardware combinations with a great deal of customer lock-in such as Oracle databases or Microsoft Windows or IBM mainframes are another profitable business model. However, all of these examples face eroding revenues as new development goes elsewhere and existing customers gradually drop away through natural attrition.

  4. Czrly

    Jolly Good Journalism, El Reg.

    I opened the article expecting to find fuel to fuel my instinctive, reflexive rage and urge to instantly denigrate redis and Redis Labs and, instead, I now find myself pondering whether my own fledgling project (as yet unreleased) should adopt the Commons Clause when it leaves the stable.

    That is how journalism is supposed to work. El Reg, you have made me think.

    I honestly don't know what one should do, today. I don't think that the Commons Clause is the right answer but perhaps it was the best answer for redis, today. I am sure it will spell the end of redis -- death by the forking doom.

    We need a new generation of licenses for this cloudy world: one that protects open-source projects, protects contributors and protects corporations without whom those open-source projects are likely to remain in obscurity.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Jolly Good Journalism, El Reg.

      I agree entirely. I have periodically considered which license I should use for my own open source projects, and I still don't know. I've never seen a concise argument between the various contenders, and while I have at one point or another read most of them, I can't really remember all the things you are and are not allowed to do with them. At the moment, I have published source without including or mentioning a license and I just leave the users to figure it out, but that is probably not the best way to handle that.

      1. FIA

        Re: Jolly Good Journalism, El Reg.

        I have published source without including or mentioning a license and I just leave the users to figure it out, but that is probably not the best way to handle that.

        Definitely not, it may also discourage people from using it. I certainly wouldn't in a business environment.

        Basically, it boils down to what you consider to be important. There's various opinions but it boils down to how you wish people to be able to use your code.

        The BSD (and similar) licences are fairly permissive, they basically allow you to do what you like with the code so long as you retain the copyright/licensing notices. (ie, give credit where due), the argument for this kind of licensing is that it's rather pointless re-inventing the wheel, so why not make your stuff available. An example would be the BSD TCP stack, why rewrite a complex and error prone piece of software when there's one available for you to use and potentially improve. If you choose to give back your changes, that's all well and good, but not the main thrust or intent of the licence. This is the kind of licence used by people like Apple, a lot of OS X is based upon FreeBSD; quite legally, and in the spirit of the licence too.

        The other side of the coin is the GPL style licensing. This is more about the freedom to understand and share the code behind your product. You're free to add and change the code to your hearts desire, however you must (in theory) make your changes available for all, so they can be inspected, reviewed and adopted by others; also it in theory prevents you from distributing software that can't be understood or examined as you have to make the source code available. This is the approach taken by Linux and other projects; although this intent has been subverted somewhat by larger companies. For example, Google don't release any of their internal system code as they don't distribute binaries, you just /use/ the software, or with Android they're moving more and more code into proprietary components so in effect having their cake and eating it too. It's this kind of behaviour Redis are attempting to address.

        Most of the OS licences fall between these two ends of the spectrum, which you choose is as much about your views on the use of your software as it is with anything else.

        If you want people to be able to use your source code, but you're not bothered if they make any changes public then the BSD/Apache licences are the way to go about it, otherwise the GPL and variants are probably where you should be looking.

        And it's the internet, so whichever one you chose someone will probably tell you you're wrong. :)

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Jolly Good Journalism, El Reg.

          Thank you for those posts; they were informative. I will be going through my code and clarifying the licenses. In most of the libraries I have written, they are probably more of a BSD-type thing, as they are less likely to be externally modified, and I'd rather not limit what people can create with it. Still, quite a bit of research to do before I decide on something.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Jolly Good Journalism, El Reg.

          "And it's the internet, so whichever one you chose someone will probably tell you you're wrong. :)"

          No! Youre wrong! :-)

      2. JLV

        Re: Jolly Good Journalism, El Reg.

        Well, one argument between BSD/MIT/permissives and GPL goes like this. If you were to move from BSD to a freemium model of some sorts which restricted users' rights to some extent, you could.

        If on the GPL, you could as well, provided you were the only contributor to date. Or got all your past contributors to agree to that move. Otherwise, you'd be in violation.

        Where you see the grass as greener with that particular fence is entirely up to you.

        BTW, I agree with AC "EDIT: technically they're not "closing source"" after reading the license @ https://tldrlegal.com/license/commons-clause

        Unless the core Redis system remains unemcumbered, Redis becomes unusable. If this is for nice-to-have modules that mostly apply to big, special, fish, then no big deal, except that another fork could take over.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Jolly Good Journalism, El Reg.

        "I have published source without including or mentioning a license and I just leave the users to figure it out, but that is probably not the best way to handle that."

        Yeah, it's not. For my own projects, I do all three -- some of my software is closed source, some is GPL, and some is simply placed in the public domain. I would recommend that if you want to release your code into the wild, you should include a notice placing it in the public domain. There is some legal controversy about whether this is a thing that's possible to do, but at least it makes your intentions clear. Many developers hedge their bet by providing, on request and at no charge, a license granting worldwide, nonrevocable, nonexclusive rights to do anything the licensee wishes with the code.

  5. defiler Silver badge
    Joke

    TO HELL WITH YOUR BALANCED STORY!

    It seems that someone has to bring vitriol to the comments this morning. Bah.

  6. Tom 38 Silver badge

    No, it's not bad behavior, it's a fundamental misunderstanding of open source economic models, and a desire to have your cake and eat it too.

    Google open source economic models: Google gets all the cake. Be happy with the crumbs, and if you eat the crumbs, fuck off bitching about our cake.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      You might want to look again at the number of Google's own open source projects and the ones it stewards. I think it's a pretty astute anaylsis: if, as a company, all you do is develop open source software then your business model is flawed.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "You might want to look again at the number of Google's own open source projects"

        It's exactly the breadcrumbs, software they distribute so they're bound by the license, and the projects they need to keep their own investment low offloading development to others, while keeping them blind about other exploitation.

        But all the really core software that generates money at Google may use open source but it's not open source - and that's true for Facebook, Amazon, etc. etc.

        Google could be really scared some open source projects try to kill the outdated GPL clause that if you don't distribute/sell the software you don't need to open the code and make it available. It gave big advantages to companies like Google that offer "services", and it's clear now "cloud" companies can exploit this loophole at their great advantage.

        Stallman had Microsoft as his enemy, but couldn't see Google and Amazon....

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: "You might want to look again at the number of Google's own open source projects"

          Google could be really scared some open source projects try to kill the outdated GPL clause

          If the GPL became too difficult to work with then, as has happened with many projects, then they just pick another "unencumbered" winner. Every hurdle to using some software means losing users and, in the open source world, potential contributors.

      2. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Google gets way more from OSS than they give back. They also don't open source a great deal of their innovations, which has lead to the industry standard version of those innovations being not from google, but clean room re-implementations - prime example Hadoop, derived from descriptions of GFS and MapReduce. Its hypocritical to criticise another company for doing what they want with their code when you do precisely the same thing.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Google gets way more from OSS than they give back.

          This is a sweeping and essentially unverifiable claim. Consider three projects that Google has devoted considerable resources to: Chrome, WebM / AV1, and Android.

          Of course, all three serve Google's own interests but that doesn't discount their value: Chrome was probably the biggest single challenge to a world dominated by Internet Explorer; WebM means that video is dominated by neither Flash nor pay-to-play MP4; and Android means some choice for mobile phones.

          It also developed Go for inhouse use and made it open source, and this probably best illustrates how the company works: Go is key to Google's infrastructure but it isn't the key. This follows how IBM released some software that it didn't want to maintain on its own.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            "Chrome was probably the biggest single challenge"

            Sorry, Mozilla came first, and broke IE monopoly first (with some help from EU antitrust ruling). Just like Android, Chrome was necessary to fully sustain the data hoarding and ads slinging operations.

            Chrome is built on WebKit which wasn't open sourced by Google - it was another way to keep investment low reusing someone else's technology to access user data. And AFAIK not everything in Chrome is open source, Chromium is, but not Chrome. Whatever is critical to Google's business is not made open source.

            Nor Android is not fully open source - the Google's "blob" isn't - and it still allowed Google to re-use a lot of existing tools without the need to create a full ecosystem from scratch (iOS required far more investments). Still, they may have broken Java copyright, they could have asked a licenses to clear any doubt, but they didn't want to pay even that.

            Controlling web standards is also essential to Google business - anything they may have to pay licenses/royalties to use will impact their profits - so it's better to create the standards, and giving them away for free it's the best way to have them adopted.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: "Chrome was probably the biggest single challenge"

              Sorry, Mozilla came first, and broke IE monopoly first

              Not really. IE remained dominant in most countries before being overtaken by Chrome. No doubt that Mozilla and Opera, and to a lesser extent Apple, were instrumental in developing and adopting HTML5, but it was only really when Google brought out and pushing Chrome that things changed significantly. All credit to Google for continuing to commit, and yes influence, web standards, in contrast to Apple which continues to develop what it needs and hope that market share means adoption.

              AOSP is fully open source and you can run in it without any Google sauce, though some apps might not like it and you will probably need vendor blobs for most handsets.

              Chromium is no longer built on WebKit but on Blink. Chrome itself isn't open source but it also doesn't have that much more than is in Chromium: things like the Flashplayer, DRM shit and user tracking tools. Interesting but not really "business critical".

              I am not in any way defending Google's monopolistic tendencies, over which it should indeed be challenged.

              1. LDS Silver badge

                "Google brought out and pushing Chrome that things changed significantly"

                You mean the sneaky installers which got Chrome silently into your system when you believed you were installing an antivirus of Flash?

                Mozilla reached 30% market share before Chrome became significant, and that was enough to break IE monopoly which was then about 55%. Probably Mozilla share would have increased, if Google didn't try to install Chrome everywhere and people believed it was a good idea to install it.

                And unlike Chrome, Mozilla is really open source.

                Blink is a fork of WebKit, because evidently Google wanted to be the 800 pound gorilla of the project, and with Apple it couldn't be possible.

                And how do you know what's in Chrome since it's not open source? I'm sure Google doesn't want to talk too much about what Chrome gathers about you... like locations services which aren't turned off when you turn them off, or browsing history which is always recorded...

                1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                  Re: "Google brought out and pushing Chrome that things changed significantly"

                  Mozilla reached 30% market share before Chrome became significant, and that was enough to break IE monopoly which was then about 55%. Probably Mozilla share would have increased, if Google didn't try to install Chrome everywhere and people believed it was a good idea to install it.

                  The latter was very much a case of the biter bit…

                  IE eventually lost to the other monopoly builders Safari and Chrome. The irony is that Mozilla and Opera, Opera's work on WHATWG cannot be overstated, did pioneer modern web standards but it was the combined might of Apple and Google that really got them established. Both Google and Apple are heavy users of open source software but I'd argue that Google contributes quite a lot more back.

                  Blink was forked not just by Google but by others who were disenchanted by Apple's stewardship once WebKit did everything it needed for the App Store: Apple also doesn't need to worry much about building for different toolkits.

    2. ckm5

      I'm pretty sure that Google employs more open source developers than pretty much any other company. It's easy to forget that that was the point of open source, to allow people to contribute to the development of software and have their work be visible by others. It was not really thought of as a way for people who voluntarily contribute to monetize their code directly.....

      Fundamentally, there is no such thing as an 'open source economic model'. Open source can be a strategy within another business model, but it is not, in itself, a business model. That is the problem with this whole 'Commons Clause' thing.

      Disclaimer - I spend years helping a lot of large & small tech companies develop open source strategies, including some in this article - also helped create the Linux Foundation.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I do not understand

    Well I do, Redis wants a cut of the pie its code helped create. But when you contribute to an open-source project, you do so knowing full well that you're not going to get paid for that.

    You are giving the code to the world for the betterment of everyone.

    Now some of these code-givers are suddenly complaining that they're not getting a percentage of the revenue that other people are getting thanks, in part, to their code.

    Well I'm sorry but that's exactly how it is supposed to work. You gave the code, they used it. Instead of complaining, make your own hosting service and generate revenue on it.

    If I were to adopt Redis' attitude, I would ring up all the companies I have ever written code for and demand a percentage of their revenue because my code helped them get money.

    Hmm. Maybe I should give that some more thought after all ;)

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "when you contribute to an open-source project, [...] you're not going to get paid for that"

      ROTFL! Do you know how many developers are actually paid to work on open source projects? Do you believe people live out of thin air, or can develop complex software on their free time only, while being paid for doing something else? Sure, some can, most need to earn money anyway, and those money has to come from somewhere.

      "You are giving the code to the world for the betterment of everyone"

      Sure, and then go to live under a bridge alone (and be careful about trolls!), while Google, Amazon, Facebook & C. make billions out of your efforts... and it doesn't look they are making the world better, actually it looks they are making it worse.

      People believing "open source" means "work for nothing" are or naive worshiper, or are people willingly to exploit others for their own advantage.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Whoosh !

        My point is : nobody pays you dividends for Open Source code.

        Yes, I know full well that people get paid to contribute. Good for them, and good for Open Source in general.

        But their right to remuneration stops when the code is published. What is done with the code afterwards does not generate a right to get paid.

        That was my point.

        You're welcome.

      2. ckm5

        Re: "when you contribute to an open-source project, [...] you're not going to get paid for that"

        "Sure, and then go to live under a bridge alone (and be careful about trolls!), while Google, Amazon, Facebook & C. make billions out of your efforts... and it doesn't look they are making the world better, actually it looks they are making it worse."

        While it's undoubtedly true that most 'cloud' companies were enabled by open source, there is a lot more to their businesses that just using some open source software.

        It's kinda like saying that because you can machine parts, you are capable of building a car....

        Fundamentally, it's not really about bits of code, but how they are integrated, managed, maintained and marketed. After you've figured all that out, you need to figure out how to make money.

        For most large internet companies, the answer is not 'we sell code' but 'we sell eyeballs'.... Which is exactly why this whole discussion is kinda inane - Google et al are not selling code, they are selling access to people. Even AWS is not selling code, they are selling access to a blob of compute time/resources the details of which are irrelevant.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "It's kinda like saying that because you can machine parts"

          Well, if can source ready-made car parts for nothing, setting up a shop to build cars is far, far easier. I guess Musk would have far fewer issues with Tesla if it worked that way, especially from a financial point of view.

          Google and others are re-selling services built on open source code, because most licenses were designed before the idea of cloud became widespread. It could become a turning point for open source as we knew it till now, because the business model may not work any longer but for projects funded by the big companies themselves.

          Sure, they have to add some missing parts - the integration could be easier than developing something complex from scratch - it's far, far easier when a big share of the work is already done by others, and you don't have to pay them a dime to use their work, and, because the service is sold by some big cloudy company, and users move there, even the support revenues could disappear.

        2. De Facto

          Re: "when you contribute to an open-source project, [...] you're not going to get paid for that"

          No, Amazon is selling goods, their core revenue is from e-commerce business. Amazon E-commerce sales dwarfs AWS cloud revenue, which is marginal to their business bottom line. Perhaps AWS revenue pays only for computer hardware amortisation and upgrades every 3-5 years.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I do not understand

      Go back a few decades... remember "Share Ware"? One would write a program, app, whatever and put it on BBS's. Usually with "you can use this anyway you like but if you like using it, send us a few dollars" type of thing. Greedy companies and cheap users killed that off real fast. Open source seems to be headed that way also unless a way of paying people for their efforts is found.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I do not understand

        "remember "Share Ware"?"

        Remember it? Yes! It's not gone, by the way, although the term itself isn't used much anymore. I just paid for a piece of shareware last week!

  8. DuncanLarge Silver badge

    Oh so you are going proprietary to fight for the little guy eh?

    "Cloud providers have been taking advantage the open source community for years by selling (for hundreds of millions of dollars) cloud services based on open source code they didn’t develop," he said, pointing to widely adopted projects like Docker, Elasticsearch, Hadoop, Redis and Spark. "This discourages the community from investing in developing open source code, because any potential benefit goes to cloud providers rather than the code developer or their sponsor."

    So, you shun the "Open Source" or should I say Free Software community (as its the affero GPL) by closing off your software because the big guys are not helping fund the projects they use?

    I agree that bug corps should help fund these projects, many do, as we nearly lost GPG and OpenSSL ended up with heartbleed because the sole developer made a typo. Its a good thing for a compnay to chuck a bit of cash towards the project, users should do that too. Hmm perhaps projects could thing about using patreon, just thought of that.

    Oh so, you removed the freedoms you gave us when using the AGPL because you wanted to help us encourage big cloud users to help fund the project. I.. I dont understand your reasoning.

    Its like you have a Dad who owns the local sweet shop and you convince him to close it, because you are not happy that some of the kids in the school were not sharing enough sweets. Instead of suggesting to them to do so, you get your Dad to close the shop, thinking you are helping everyone by removing the problem.

    Like your decision my example doesnt make a lot of sense. I have never heard of your software and now I know there is no way I would be able to use it anyway.

    Ho hum.

  9. localzuk

    Not so sure this will work

    A lot of the bigwig companies have the ability to simply fork the software and move on, ignoring the original developers. Or maybe they are aiming for a different future - being bought out by one of the cloud providers? All the big ones could probably afford to buy them with their daily staff canteen take...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "A lot of the bigwig companies have the ability to simply fork"

      Even they can't fork everything and hire the developers with the required skills - it would anyway greatly increase costs, and keeping costs low is the reason they're exploiting open source so much.

      They're also taking advantage of the broad availability of open source software. and its integration with other tools, so people already using it can be lured into moving their applications into cloud systems, maybe developing locally and deploying remotely.

      As soon as they fork, and the code actually becomes "proprietary" if they don't distribute it, those advantages disappear.

  10. Andy 73

    Hmmm..

    So it turns out that contributing to large scale open source projects is sometimes thankless, and that the majority of people using your hard work are large corporates who derive *gasp* actual income from the infrastructure you've kindly built.

    Calls that people who enjoy software development should also provide hosting or 24/7 support if they actually want to make money is rather like the expectation that film makers should only get income from advertising. If your skill is software development, why not ask to be rewarded directly for the thing you do, rather than being required to add a whole bunch of other tasks you don't enjoy to your life?

    None of this is counter to the core ideas of open source, and the huge reward that comes from sharing and contributing to projects - however, it should be recognised that sometimes other models are just as appropriate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm..

      "...that the majority of people using your hard work are large corporates who derive *gasp* actual income from the infrastructure you've kindly built."

      No one (at least on the engineering side) is going to particularly begrudge other companies making money from open source software. The gripes here are twofold:

      1) The cloud vendors are substantially customising the upstream code and then refusing to contribute these customisations back. A great example of this can be seen in the Hadoop world where Amazon built a specific S3 storage implementation in EMRFS vs the upstream effort to deliver the equivalent functionality in S3Guard.

      2) There is a suspicion that this behaviour by the mega cloud vendors (Amazon in particular) is being run at a loss, with the intention of winning business at all costs. Specialised software vendors cannot compete with that scale.

      However trying to abuse OSS licenses like this is not the way to win the battle. Kubernetes has proven the way forward - just do it better than the cloud vendors, in a genuinely open way. Redis, like many other pseudo-open projects (including Neo4J) suffered from a lack of genuine community involvement. If you didn't work for Redis Labs, you had almost no say in the project's direction. Redis Labs's continued ownership of the copyright is what has facilitated this licensing switch - open source projects *must* be run by neutral, open organisations. Companies should participate, not own.

    2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Hmmm..

      You can share as much as you like. Just don’t expect others to feed you.

  11. James 47

    I've considered forking Redis quite often. Using it on high-vCPU count AWS instances is a waste of money due to Redis' single-threaded design.

    1. Nick Kew
      Headmaster

      Apologies if you're already well-versed in the dynamics of forking an open-source project ...

      If your "I" there really means a potentially-viable developer community interested in working together on it, then that could be an interesting effort. Go ahead and see how much momentum you can build. And trawl github et al for folks already doing related work.

      On the other hand, if it's just you scratching your own concurrency itch in isolation, you'll soon end up with something that falls behind redis and may become ever harder to maintain.

      1. James 47

        I'm not trying to make Redis concurrent per se, but perhaps load balancing it across cores would be beneficial; each core runs a copy of the same database. Also, not having to wait for replies *every time* was another irk, but they've dealt with that since.

  12. Nick Kew
    Flame

    The naming of names

    We may argue over what kind of a case Redis has here.

    But one thing seems to me pure evil. Their new licence has some serious potential to confuse, and to p*** all over two valuable trademarks:

    (1) It's already been spotted "out there" referred to as "Apache Common Clause". If Redis themselves sanction such use it's a clear violation of the Apache trademark.

    (2) "Common Clause" and the inevitable abbreviation CC have obvious potential for confusion with Creative Commons.

    I honestly don't know what we who value those trademarks can do about it. Any lawyers lurking here?

  13. andy 103 Silver badge

    Redis Labs !== Redis

    Redis Labs is a private company.

    Redis refers to the open source project, https://redis.io/

    They are 2 separate things.

    What's to stop any private company taking open source code and doing this? It's been done before and it'll continue being done. In my mind this is one of the serious "problems" with open source and a reason many people are put off contributing to such projects.

    I do the work and someone else profits financially or otherwise? Why would I want that?

    The danger here is devious people starting open source efforts to get "free" contributions and then turning them into something for their own commercial gain whilst also turning their back on the people who helped them get there. I don't have a solution to this, but I don't think anyone else does either?

    "cloud providers benefit from open-source software while giving nothing back."

    Right, except cloud providers wouldn't even have a service to begin with, without open-source efforts that came beforehand!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Redis Labs !== Redis

      > They are 2 separate things.

      True, although I'm assuming it's a trademark and that- like MySQL, for example- the forked version will have to use a new name.

      No big deal in the long term, but maybe a minor issue in publicity and identification terms for a while.

      > What's to stop any private company taking open source code and doing this?

      You couldn't do that under the GPL unless the project required the copyright to be turned over in order for contributions to be accepted.

      I'm not sure where this stands under the (existing) Apache license.

      Regardless, there always exists the option of forking it.

  14. onefang

    "which makes open-source license management software"

    Is the open-source license management software open-source?

  15. cs9

    The AGPL is not an effective way to stop Amazon from leeching your software, MongoDB on AWS is just one example, they don't modify it they just host it and charge you for it, there's nothing to give back. And AWS is making mad money on Elasticache. It was the launch of Redis/Elasticache that put Redis Labs in such dire straits to begin with, AWS is making millions per year on Redis and Redis Labs saw its user base go up in smoke almost overnight.

    This move isn't about trying to shame AWS into giving back -- that will never happen -- this is a company trying to figure out some way to keep the lights on.

  16. FIA

    In an email to The Register, Paul Berg, an open-source licensing expert who advises the Idaho National Laboratory in the US, suggested this is not so much a move to help open-source developers as an effort to put the work of developers who collaborated on the Redis Modules under the control of Redis Labs.

    How does this work? If contributors have signed away their copyright, or given redis re-licensing rights then sure, but you can't just take my work and re-licence it without my say so. Have they had buy in from all contributors or are they one of those companies that makes you sign an onerous re-licening agreement when contributing?

  17. JohnFen Silver badge

    What?

    "This discourages the community from investing in developing open source code, because any potential benefit goes to cloud providers rather than the code developer or their sponsor."

    Wait, so their solution to this perceived abuse of OSS is to make their software not open source anymore? Because doing so will encourage the OSS community?

    This is seriously illogical, even for PR nonsense.

  18. antonyh

    There seems to be little discussion on the side-effect of this licence change: why would I start a project now with Redis when I can't use Modules commercially? Will the Redis licence change to include this?

    The same applies to Neo4J which also has adopted this Commons Clause.

    Not only does this add risk to any project that uses it, it now adds a security burden for those who cannot upgrade, and a likelihood that hosting services will shutter Redis support.

    This is a toxic move to an ecosystem that provides little benefit. What irks me most though is that's ok to lean upon Ubuntu in their Docker instances, and Gnu in their buildchain; perhaps they would be kind enough to publish how they contribute to these organisations / projects?

    It seems that RedisLabs is fine with taking from the OSS community, and yet restrict how some of Redis is used by removing a key freedom. Stop pretending this is open source. The Redis core is (for now at least) but not the modules with this clause.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Streisand wanted

    Have Redis Labs assessed the possible benefits of restricting distribution of some of their software against a benign version of the so-called Streisand effect?

    That is to say, you may not get any more directly from those hosting companies pre-installing your products, but it does increase the visibility and presumably popularity of your product. Most people are actually willing to pay cash for that (it's called "advertising").

    I am not jumping to conclusions and surely Redis Labs have thought it through properly, it's just that this is one of many points not mentioned in the article.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open Source and Doing it Wrong

    If Redis want out, they should get out. It's clear that it's not their cup of tea.

    Open source should always be about the community. It's creation of the community, by the community, and for the community. The creation should not be viewed as something you want personally ownership. Instead, the service of you provided should be consider an achievement.

    It's basically like being a teacher and teaching others. By teaching the students, many becomes rich and won't return to help you, but some of your students will help you back on your research. You learn more as a result and the world gets better and educated.

    Base on that. Whoever fork whatever really shouldn't matter, because they're not the community. They could use Linux for cloud and became billionaire with it, but none of that should matters. It's because it's not about the community.

    Open source is about the community. Redis did it without thinking for the community, so they should get out.

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