New Product Release, New Open Source License for a Cloudy World

As you have likely seen, we announced the general availability of version 3.1 of the product today. I won’t repeat the information that is posted elsewhere on the site, but I do want to touch on a couple of things.

The new capabilities we have introduced are broadly applicable, but the needs of service providers and other cloud storage offerings were a significant factor in our development priorities. I’m guessing nobody is very surprised by that fact, as cloud computing is an industry trend that isn’t going away. Cloud environments do have unique requirements, but they also share universal characteristics such as the need to automate on a large scale and dynamically adapt to changing conditions. The Elastic Volume Manager and Gluster Console Manager in v3.1 are a reflection of this.

Just as products have evolved for a cloudy world, open source licensing needs to evolve as well. Historically software had been delivered as a packaged product. We now operate in an environment where software, and full infrastructure solutions,  are delivered over the network as a service. The GNU General Public License (GPL) is great for packaged software but doesn’t adequately address the software as a service model. This is often referred to as the ‘service provider loophole’ of the GPL – service providers can adopt and modify open source software without making changes and enhancements available to the community as source code because they are not distributing it in the traditional fashion.

The GNU Affero GPL (AGPL) is a modified version of the GPL that was created to address this issue. The AGPL preserves copyleft conditions for software delivered over a network. In other words, it closes the service provider loophole. See gnu.org for an explanation of why the Affero GPL. The AGPL is a Free Software Foundation approved license.

Like many companies, Gluster has a stake in the use of open source software in the cloud and we have chosen to adopt the AGPL. We feel that it’s the right open source license for the IT industry that is increasingly delivering services from the cloud. The community stands to benefit significantly as the copyleft provision ensures code is made available and no existing rights or source code access are restricted. We also have business reasons for this decision as service providers will have more incentive to establish a commercial relationship with us. That benefits the community as well as we can allocate more resources to product development which will be made available to the community. As the AGPL is basically about preserving copyleft for service providers the vast majority of community members and end users won’t see any change.

Looking forward to your comments, as they say: These Times They Are A-Changin’

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