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Cockroach Labs Changes its Licensing Strategy, Adopts Permissive Version of Business Source License


CockroachDB will now be offered under a permissive version of the Business Source License (BSL). CockroachDB 19.2 will be the first release to use this new license scheme.

Another open source company has tightened its licensing strategy to protect its software from cloud providers like Amazon Web Services.

New York-based database company Cockroach Labs has announced that it is switching CockroachDB away from the Apache License version 2 (APL).  It has decided to offer the next version of the open-source project under a permissive version of the Business Source License (BSL).

This new license will allow CockroachDB users to scale CockroachDB to any number of nodes, use or embed it in their applications or even run it as a service internally. But they cannot offer a commercial version of CockroachDB as a service without buying a license.

“…our past outlook on the right business model relied on a crucial norm in the OSS world: that companies could build a business around a strong open source core product without a much larger technology platform company coming along and offering the same product as a service. That norm no longer holds,” the company explained in a blog post.

Today, many companies are offering other companies’ open-source products as their own service. “We’re witnessing the rise of highly-integrated providers take advantage of their unique position to offer ‘as-a-service’ versions of OSS products, and offer a superior user experience as a consequence of their integrations,” Cockroach Labs wrote, and cited Amazon’s forked version of ElasticSearch as an example.

The change in software licensing model is a way to respond to this breed of competitor, it added.

The restriction comes with a rolling time limit

According to Cockroach Labs, CockroachDB will switch back to the standard Apache 2.0 license three years after each release.

“Our goal in relicensing with a time restriction is two-pronged: to simultaneously create a competitive database as a service (DBaaS) while also providing a guarantee that the core product will become pure open source,” the company stated.

However, the new license still permits users to use, redistribute and modify CockroachDB freely. It will become no-strings-attached open source after three years.

“We believe this is the best way to balance the needs of the business with our commitment to Open Source,” the company

Older versions will not be affected by this license change

The company plans to relicense CockroachDB beginning with 19.2, adding the restriction that it may not be used in a commercial database-as-a-service (DBaaS) without a license agreement with Cockroach Labs. CockroachDB 19.2 is tentatively scheduled for release in October 2019.

Older versions are not affected by this license change. CockroachDB 19.1 is still using the Apache license, and all present and future patch releases in the 19.1.x series will also use the APL, according to the company.

Meanwhile, CockroachDB’s enterprise features will continue to use the Cockroach Community License (CCL). Use of enterprise features will always require a license agreement with Cockroach Labs and this license will not convert to open source after three years.

Cockroach Labs isn’t the only company adding such restriction in their license agreement. Redis Labs, MongoDB and Confluent also announced new licenses last year to prohibit cloud providers from offering a commercial version of their projects as a service.




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