After Redis and MongoDB, Now Confluent Sets Restrictions on Software Usage


Confluent’s new license is very similar to the Apache 2.0 except for a clear restriction on providing KSQL and several other components as cloud services.

 Confluent — a startup founded by the creators of Kafka — has joined the league of major open-source tech companies who have set restrictions on usage of software.

On Friday, Confluent announced that it is changing the license for some of the components of Confluent Platform from Apache 2.0 to the Confluent Community License. The move is apparently to prevent large clouds from using its software to make their own profits.

This new license is very much like Apache 2.0 in the sense that it allows to freely download, modify, and redistribute the code, but it doesn’t allow user to provide the software as a SaaS offering.

“What this means is that, for example, you can use KSQL however you see fit as an ingredient in your own products or services, whether those products are delivered as software or as SaaS, but you cannot create a KSQL-as-a-service offering,” Confluent co-founder and CEO Jay Kreps explains in a blog post.

However, it does not change anything about Apache Kafka, the widely used open-source data-streaming project. It still remains under the Apache 2.0 license.

Necessary step to build sustainable business

The move came after Amazon Web Services unveiled a managed version of Kafka at re:Invent 2018 last month.

Jay Kreps calls their new move ‘a necessary step,’ and says that it will let them continue to invest heavily in code that they distribute for free, while sustaining a healthy business that funds this investment.

He explains, “In a world in which data systems are delivered as on-premises software, we as an industry have figured out how to build sustainable companies that can drive this kind of virtuous cycle. It isn’t easy, but starting a company never is. In that model, we’ve found that permissive open source licensing such as Apache 2.0 can be the major component of a thriving software offering that sustains a healthy business. However, the world has significantly changed with the rise of cloud offerings that provide this kind of software as a service. In this new world, the cloud providers have significant advantages: they control the pricing of all resources a service provider will use and can tightly integrate their own services across all their offerings.”

Over the last six months, three open-source tech companies, Confluent being the latest, have set restrictions on usage of software. Earlier this year, Redis and MongoDB took similar moves.



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