Elastic keeps ticking | InfoWorld

Open source isn’t supposed to work like this. Like Elasticsearch, that is. A few years ago AWS called out Elastic for shifting away from Elasticsearch’s Apache-style permissive licensing to “some rights reserved” licensing. By early 2021, Elastic went farther down its licensing path, and AWS responded by forking Elasticsearch, resulting in OpenSearch.

Along the way, OpenSearch has picked up some open source adherents such as Instaclustr and Aiven, which have both built managed services for OpenSearch. Meanwhile, a chorus of industry voices beyond AWS has criticized Elastic for how it has handled licensing (see this tweet and this one).

But here’s the thing: For all the sound and fury, Elastic, the company, seems to be doing quite well. Elasticsearch, the code, doesn’t seem to be struggling, either. As I pointed out recently with serverless, sometimes we imagine a developer’s choices are strictly binary: open or closed. But as the Elasticsearch example suggests, developers aren’t nearly so simpleminded.

Much ado about something

I’ve been involved in open source for more than two decades, ever since I went to work for a Linux company in 2000. Nor have I simply been a passenger. I care a lot about all those pedantic, tedious open source debates that embroiled segments of the tech world during that time, and I have actively participated in the discussions on free software (GPL) versus open source (Apache/BSD/MIT), Open Core, and so on. I’ve written about the Free Software Foundationopen source licensing minutiaedeveloper devotion to community, and a lot more.

Yet during that same period of time, open source software came to permeate and even dominate huge swaths of computing. It’s hard to imagine cloud computing even existing without open source infrastructure powering it, even as most developers mostly yawned about open source licensing. As I detailed back in 2014, open source licensing has consistently moved toward more permissive licenses, to the point that most GitHub repositories don’t have a license at all.

As I wrote, “The GitHub generation seems determined to take open source to its logical conclusion: releasing most software under no license at all.” Personally, I didn’t like that. I wanted (and still want) people to care about these issues. But most don’t.

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