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InfoQ Homepage News Grafana Labs Changes Licenses to AGPLv3 for Grafana, Loki, and Tempo

Grafana Labs Changes Licenses to AGPLv3 for Grafana, Loki, and Tempo

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Grafana Labs has recently announced the plan to change the licenses for their core products. They will relicense Grafana, Grafana Loki, and Grafana Tempo from the Apache License 2.0 to the Affero General Public License (AGPL) v3. Plugins, agents, and certain libraries will remain Apache-licensed. Placing restrictions on software used over a network, the AGPLv3 offers a greater protection against cloud providers that make changes to the code without submitting them back to the project.

Started in 2014 by Torkel Ödegaard as a fork of Kibana, Grafana is an open source web application designed for time series analytics and monitoring. Raj Dutt, co-founder and CEO at Grafana Labs, explains the reason behind the choice of AGPLv3 instead of the Server Side Public License (SSPL):

We believe in open source and are not in the business of trying to redefine what that means (...) We considered SSPL and watched community response to the decisions that MongoDB and Elastic made. We really respect their decisions, but we’ve decided that we want to keep Grafana Labs software under OSI-approved licenses, because the support of the open source community is very important to us. It’s hard to say you’re an open source company when you’re using a license that isn’t accepted by OSI.

AGPLv3 is an OSI-approved license that meets all criteria for free and open source software. SSPL, the copyleft license developed by MongoDB and adopted by Elastic for Elasticsearch and Kibana, is not an approved open source license. Federico Razzoli, director & database consultant at Vettabase Ltd, likes the change:

I suggested many times that database vendors that need to protect themselves from cloud vendors (Amazon) should switch to the GNU AGPL, instead of proprietary licenses. Fortunately, Grafana Labs decided to follow this path.

In a separate Q&A article, the CEO of Grafana Labs clarifies that the relicensing was not triggered by Amazon and the recent announcement of Amazon Managed Service for Grafana (AMG):

AWS is a strategic partner, and given the commercial relationship AWS has with us for AMG, AWS and their AMG customers are not impacted by this change. We hope that other XaaS providers follow AWS’s lead in working with open source software companies in similarly sustainable ways.

Peter Zaitsev, co-founder of Percona and open-source advocate, suggests the recent funding round triggered the change in license:

I was waiting for this shoe to fall. Raising $75M+ is not easily compatible with a permissive license for the core product. I'm glad they chose AGPLv3 vs SSPL and friends though. At least Grafana remains Open Source!

Wiard van Rij, DevOps engineer at Fullstaq, highlights that projects and business models like Grafana Enterprise might not exist in the future:

"If Kibana had been an AGPL project, Grafana would likely have been AGPL from day one" - And that would mean that there was no closed source Enterprise variant? I.e. the problem of forking Grafana right now for others.

Grafana Labs plan to keep backporting security fixes to the Apache versions while other fixes will be decided case by case. Details on what is being relicensed for Grafana, Loki, and Tempo are available in GitHub.

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