A couple of days ago, Elastic announced that it will change the licensing of Elasticsearch and Kibana as of the 7.11 release to a proprietary dual license (under the SSPL license) and away from the open-source Apache-2.0 license.
This move has caused extensive turmoil and frustration in the open-source community, especially with organizations that rely on Elasticsearch.
Let me start with the end in mind.
Over the last few days, we’ve been closely collaborating with a growing number of organizations that believe that Elasticsearch and Kibana need to stay open-source, Apache 2, to serve the broad and diverse community of users working with and contributing to it
In the next couple of weeks, we will work to launch a true open source distribution for Elasticsearch and Kibana, along with a few partners.
Our goal is to have these two new projects be driven by multiple organizations and not by a single commercial organization. They are planned to be Apache-2 forever and community-driven, so they can ultimately be contributed to foundations such as the ASF or the CNCF as the steering committees suggest. Our joint mission will be to encourage collaboration, unleash innovation, and serve the greater community.
As a customer-obsessed organization, Logz.io has the utmost focus on the success of our customers and community users. We are committed to supporting our community with the best platform to serve their observability needs. Logz.io remains committed to supporting Kibana and Elasticsearch in the future and serving our customers with the best observability platform available.
Logz.io offers a unified cloud observability platform with log management based on Kibana, Prometheus as a service, distributed tracing based on Jaeger, and cloud SIEM. The Logz.io team is intimately immersed with both Kibana and Elasticsearch. In fact, outside Elastic, Logz.io has one of the largest concentrations of engineering expertise in these projects. Collaborating with other organizations will yield stable, secure, and rapidly evolving open source projects that will serve the community.
I believe it is the beginning of a new era and in the years to come, these new projects will become the de facto standard of the industry.
Some More Background
On a personal note, since I first met the Elastic team members in 2014, I always looked up to Elastic and I can even say that I admired the company’s culture, leaders, and the business they built. That’s why their recent step is even more disappointing.
The Elastic announcement didn’t come as a total surprise to people who work closely with the source code of these projects. Over the last couple of years, Elastic has dried down these open source projects. It’s easy to see that technically, Elastic has moved away from investing in these projects and instead, has driven the vast majority of innovation into the commercial x-pack.
When one of the leading open-source companies in the world decides to close source its code to block competition, I believe that it may yield short term results on Wall Street, but it ultimately betrays the community of people that built and contributed to making Elastic what it is today and what we believed the company was when it said this:
That is not OK.
Yes, I know that the choice of licensing under SSPL is designed to block AWS from competing. However, if ordinary users take this license to their legal department, they will tell them it is clearly an unclear license that will impose additional risks. Section 13 in the SSPL states: “…enabling third parties to interact with the functionality..“. Well, that broad definition includes a significant amount of use-cases organizations use Elasticsearch for. I believe that this will ultimately drive numerous organizations to be looking for alternatives. An easy Google search shows how many companies are looking to move away from these projects now.
Portraying Elastic as a deprived and poor entity is ironic. Another way to put it is a multi-billion dollar corporation that is trying to brutally block competition, force community users to pay for Elasticsearch, and fully monetize an eco-system.
Here is a piece of free advice for Elastic. Do you want to win against the competition? Why don’t you develop a better cloud service? It is harder than changing license terms, true. But this will force innovation and will make sure we’re all better providers, while users get a better service.
I think there is a lot of FUD about open-source. Elastic benefited tremendously from having Elasticsearch and Kibana available to the community as “open-source”. It seeded the market, drove adoption, and built a ±$15B business. After doing that, suddenly claiming that they need to close source because other organizations can benefit from it seems opportunistic.
That is not OK.
And last but not least, I believe that working together on providing Elasticsearch and Kibana open-sourced, under Apache 2, is the right thing to do for our customers. It is the right thing to do for anyone who relies on these open source projects. Above all, I think it is the right thing to do for the future of open-source software. Organizations should continue to rely on open-source without the fear of extreme one-sided measures such as this, which disturbs the foundation of this entire open-source movement and industry.
We’re only getting started. Stay tuned for more.
If you’re interested in participating and contributing, we’d love to collaborate firstname.lastname@example.org