Open Source: Grafana Labs switches licenses for core products from Apache to AGPL

Grafana Labs has announced changes to the open source licenses of the company’s key products. The tools Grafana, Grafana Loki and Grafana Tempo previously developed under the Apache 2 license are now available under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) v3.

According to the company, the license change should ensure the fair use of the open source software. The AGPL still allows the free use and further development of the products, but has stricter rules than Apache 2: The license for free software contains the copyleft clause, which states that all licensees are obliged to make extensions and changes under the license of the original At the factory.

Compared to the GPL, it closes the so-called ASP loophole, through which companies would not have to release the source code for purely hosted versions of the software. The licenses for Grafana, version 7.4 released in February, and the Tempo and Loki tools are in the respective GitHub-Repositories already converted.

At first glance, Grafana is following the example of MongoDB, Redis and Elastic with the change in licenses, which have also adjusted their licenses in recent years. The main focus was on using the software on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud. However, all three have relied on special licenses with stricter requirements.

In 2018, Redis switched some modules to a common-clauses license model. Before that, they were under the BSD license. A year later, due to violent protests, the company adapted the model and introduced the Redis Source Available License (RSAL). Also in 2018, MongoDB decided to switch to the Server Side Public License (SSPL). The software was previously under the AGPL, which Grafana is now relying on.

Earlier this year, Elastic switched from the Apache 2 license to the SSPL as well, which sparked a massive dispute with Amazon. Elastic had blamed the internet giant for the change in January.

All three companies gave the protection of their own software and the open source concept as the reason for the changes. Grafana also focuses on the latter, but the license change has one major difference: In contrast to SSPL and RSAL, AGPL v3 has the blessing of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). The fact that this is not the case with SSPL is one of the main criticisms of Elastic in the latest dispute.

In a Q&A Grafana Labs CEO Raj Dutt explains that there were several licenses in the room for the change, including the SSPL. However, a conscious decision was made in favor of a license accepted by the OSI. He doesn’t skip a swipe at Elastic and MongoDB: “You can hardly call yourself an open source company if you use a license that is not accepted by the OSI.”

The stricter requirements of the copyleft clause should be loud the blog post about the license change Above all, ensure that those who use open source software also contribute to the respective projects and make their extensions available to the community. In the meantime, Dutt excludes a special source-available license for the enterprise and cloud code in the proprietary products in the Q&A.

Unlike Elastic, he doesn’t see Amazon on the dark side of power. The company is a strategic partner, and he hopes “that other XaaS providers (Anything / Everything as a Service) will follow the example of AWS and work with open source software companies in a similarly sustainable manner.”


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