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InfoQ Homepage News Elastic Changes Licences for Elasticsearch and Kibana: AWS Forks Both

Elastic Changes Licences for Elasticsearch and Kibana: AWS Forks Both

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Elastic recently announced licensing changes to Elasticsearch and Kibana, with the company moving away from the Apache 2.0 license (APLv2) and adopting the Server Side Public License (SSPL) and the Elastic License. Amazon reacted with a plan to maintain a fork of both Elasticsearch and Kibana under the previous license.

While Elastic suggested that they are still committed to open source and that the licence approach is similar to the one chosen by MongoDB last year, the SSPL is not recognized as an open source license by the Open Source Initiative. To address concerns and comments from the community, Elastic followed up with two more articles that contained additional license change clarifications and an explanation of why they felt they had to change.

In an "Amazon: NOT OK - why we had to change Elastic licensing" article, they covered the issues and litigations with AWS that started in 2015 when the cloud provider introduced a managed version of the Elasticsearch open-source project. Shay Banon, founder and CEO at Elastic, explains:

Our license change is aimed at preventing companies from taking our Elasticsearch and Kibana products and providing them directly as a service without collaborating with us. Our license change comes after years of what we believe to be Amazon/AWS misleading and confusing the community - enough is enough (...) AWS’s behavior has forced us to take this step and we do not do so lightly.

In a separate article, Shay highlights some issues with the Open Distro for Elasticsearch fork, a project launched last year by AWS, which he believes is based on code that was copied by a third party from Elastic's commercial code.

The reactions from the open source community on the change were mixed, questioning more the license chosen than the business implications. Corey Quinn, cloud economist at The Duckbill Group, tweets:

The lesson here is that if you're relying on any assurances anyone at Elastic is making, you are a fool and should make other plans.

Drew DeVault, software engineer at Aspenware and contributor to different open-source projects, writes:

Elasticsearch belongs to its 1,573 contributors, who retain their copyright, and granted Elastic a license to distribute their work without restriction (...) Elastic is no longer open source, and this is a move against open source. It is not "doubling down on open". If you want to play on the FOSS playing field, then you play by the goddamn rules.

Amazon reacted, announcing a fork of both ElasticSearch and Kibana:

In order to ensure open source versions of both packages remain available and well supported, including in our own offerings, we are announcing today that AWS will step up to create and maintain a ALv2-licensed fork of open source Elasticsearch and Kibana (...) Elastic’s assertions that the SSPL is "free and open" are misleading and wrong.

A fork that Elastic says it was expecting. Peter Zaitsev, co-founder of Percona and open-source advocate, likes Amazon's decision: "Great news! Amazon steps up, Will fork Elasticsearch and maintain Open Source version". Zaitsev explains:

Elastic previously promised to "never" change the license from Apache 2.0 for the core code, and this promise is an important factor for many contributors to decide to contribute.

The future months will tell if and how many of the contributors will move to the new Amazon or other forks. Tomer Levy, co-founder and CEO of, who suggested starting a fork, announced that is now collaborating with Amazon.

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