CockroachDB Changes License to Fend Off AWS


CockroachDB embraces the BSL license of MariaDB.

CockroachDB has joined a growing list of database companies that are changing their open source license to fend off an existential threat from AWS. Earlier, MongoDB and Redis Labs also resorted to changing their licenses to protect their business model.

What is the problem? AWS, the dominant public cloud vendor, takes open source projects and starts offering them as tightly integrated services that directly compete with the commercial offerings of the creators of the projects themselves.

In most cases, these original creators can’t compete with the scale of AWS. At the same time, because the codebase is open source, AWS can take the code without having to pay anything in return. These companies find themselves sitting out watching AWS appropriate their projects without giving anything back.

All these companies want is a piece of the revenue pie that AWS generates from their projects. So far, changing to a license that restricts the reselling of their project as a service without paying has been the popular solution. Although it’s not an ideal solution for open source, it seems to be the only option left to such companies.

“Today, we’re adopting an extremely permissive version of the Business Source License (BSL),” Cockroach Labs wrote in a blog post. “CockroachDB users can scale CockroachDB to any number of nodes. They can use CockroachDB or embed it in their applications (whether they ship those applications to customers or run them as a service). They can even run it as a service internally. The one and only thing that you cannot do is offer a commercial version of CockroachDB as a service without buying a license.”

However, CockroachLabs is also adopting a clause of BSL that puts a limit on the relicensing and ensures that three years after each release, the license converts to the standard Apache 2.0 license, which means there will always be a codebase that the community can freely use.


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