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Open-source developers under corporate pressure to adopt less-permissive licenses, Percona CEO says

Cloud hyperscalers drive projects to slap restrictions on code use

Percona’s CEO had taken a swipe at open-source software vendors switching to proprietary or less-permissive open-source licences in an attempt to avoid being run over by cloud giants.

Peter Zaitsev said open-source companies are coming under increasing pressure from their boards to bring more software under a closed-source license, or something close to it, as they seek to compete with cloud vendors who take freely available open-source software and redistribute it as paid-for managed services.

Speaking at Percona Live this week, Zaitsev – who also co-founded the software and consultancy biz he heads up – said the promise of cloud computing had under-delivered for open-source database developers, forcing them to reexamine their business models.

“Many of the open-source software products were taken by cloud vendors, integrated in their cloud platform, extended, and offered in their proprietary fully managed service," he said. "That redirects a lot of the revenue stream from open source developers to the cloud vendor."

That redirects a lot of the revenue stream from open source developers to the cloud vendor

He named Redis Labs, CockroachDB, and MongoDB as companies that moved to either proprietary or less-permissive open-source licenses, to compete with the cloud titans, and pointed out that MongoDB’s shares had climbed while Elastic, which remains mostly open source and is battling Amazon, has seen its price remain reasonably static. The trend could see more open-source vendors come under pressure to look at their licensing model.

"Companies are able to switch from open source to proprietary licences, and that is probably what their boards will be very much pushing on, and we will likely see more of those changes, even if there are strong forces inside of those companies that would like to see them remain open source,” Zaitsev said.

But, he argued, the future of databases lies in the open-source model, as it was the only way to ensure the code was widely distributed.

"Open source has won: it's a much more simple and more practical way to deploy your database, and it helps reduce the toil to maximize automation. And really that empowers developers to build better apps faster and that is what a lot of companies are about these days," he said.

Examples of companies trying to blend open source and proprietary models include MariaDB, which supports the open-source database but also provides a proprietary database-as-a-service (DBaaS), to which it added new features last week. Its DBaaS SkySQL employs Kubernetes to deploy databases, whether that would be in AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, or on-premises. MariaDB is also building features that support analytics for both offline and live data.

Percona has been working on its own DBaaS technology for open-source databases, which it said would remain open source. Initially supporting MySQL, MongoDB, and PostgreSQL, the DBaaS supports management operations such as backup and recovery, and patching can be managed through the Percona Monitoring and Management (PMM) service, which is available for AWS, GCP, and Azure users.

Speaking to The Register last week, Zaitsev said users would have the freedom to support, manage, and update the DBaaS themselves, use Percona, or another third-party support provider. A customer would be free to move to a different service provider, switch cloud providers, or bring it to on-prem infrastructure – a freedom not afforded to users of cloud-vendor DBaaS systems nor those from other DBaaS providers, he said. ®

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