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Are you REALLY using ‘Open Source Software’?

Deepti Dilip J | Director – Marketing & Communications, Ashnik
Singapore, 20 Apr 2021

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You would be greatly mistaken, if you think by paying for enterprise subscription for open source software, you are getting the best of both worlds – the open source software and enterprise support on it. 

Why do I say that? One important reason is that you might not be subscribing to a software that is licensed under open source software. One quick example is enterprise subscription released by Elastic is no longer certified as an open source license. Elastic itself calls it just ‘Source available’ software. Similarly, there are other key technologies that are known as open source technologies but are actually not following the key tenets of open source licensing and this is something you can be aware of. 

The use of open source software came to be associated with continuous innovation and the community backed power by vendors, apart from lowering the cost of IT infrastructure. It is presumed that there is a freedom and choice of using community version, no-cost software when you use open source licensed software. 

However, unfortunately, many vendors who started offering their software under open source license and rode the popularity wave of open source, have changed their licensing itself or have started offering their newer / advanced features under proprietary licenses. Prime examples are Elastic, MongoDB, Redis Labs and more. 

Won’t get into the details of why they did so or if it is a good practice, in this blog, however we had covered similar developments in the video post in the past. What is more important for the enterprises is to understand the implications of these changes and thus make appropriate choices.

In order to make the right decision, enterprises have to be aware of these changes. Eg: Software released by Elastic and MongoDB – both free and paid – are not open source licensed. MongoDB introduced a new license called SSPL and Elastic followed suite. Elastic offers software under dual licenses Elastic License and SSPL, creating some further perplexity and alienating contributors. Similarly, MongoDB moved new versions of its software lock-stock-barrel to SSPL.

Redis Labs also went a similar way, with small a difference that it continues to maintain the core Redis under BSD license. These three are among many other popular technologies that started off and known as open source technologies. But they are no more giving the same freedom, choice and openness that you have come to associate with open source as a whole.

Enterprises have to understand these changes in detail and take into account the implications. Enterprises have to ask the relevant questions, could they trust these vendors who change the licenses midway and deviate from the initial philosophy. Enterprises need to ask if they can be assured of the same freedom and choice from these (and other) vendors as offered by other open source licensed software. Enterprises also have to evaluate and embrace the alternatives being created by the community to carry on the work based on the earlier versions that are available under open source licenses.

Thus, if you are also one of the organisations that says, ‘We have a large footprint of open source software and our policy is to use enterprise subscription…’ examine very closely if the ‘open source’ versions offered by your vendors that you are using are truly licensed under open source. 


  • As the Marketing and Communications Director, Deepti oversees brand strategies, marketing initiatives and digital platforms at Ashnik for Southeast Asia and India. Drawing inspiration from her advertising experience, she brings to Ashnik her zest for creativity and design. She splits her time between a full-time gig at her job, lots of hobbies and dodging her 4-year old's odd tantrums.

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