Linux Foundation marshals support for open source alternative to Redis

Follows the vendor's decision to overhaul licensing of the popular cache database

Cloud giants AWS, Google, and Oracle have come out in support of a Linux Foundation open source fork of Redis, the popular in-memory database frequently used as a cache, following changes to its licensing.

Last month, Redis confirmed it was shifting its main key-value store system to a dual-license approach, imposing far more restrictive terms. Previously, the source code was available under the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) 3-clause license, which allows developers to make commercial use of the code without paying.

Now AWS, Google, Snap Inc, Ericsson, and Oracle are joining the Linux Foundation in backing a fork of the Redis code.

A statement from the Linux Foundation said project contributors had recruited maintainer, community, and corporate support to regroup in response to the recent license change announced by the Redis company.

The new database, dubbed Valkey, is set to continue development on Redis 7.2.4. The project is available for use and distribution under the BSD license.

In a prepared statement, Madelyn Olson, former Redis maintainer, co-creator of Valkey, and a principal engineer at AWS, said: "I worked on open source Redis for six years, including four years as one of the core team members that drove Redis open source until 7.2. I care deeply about open source software, and want to keep contributing. By forming Valkey, contributors can pick up where we left off and continue to contribute to a vibrant open source community."

Valkey supports Linux, macOS, OpenBSD, NetBSD, and FreeBSD. But Microsoft, provider of the world's second most popular public cloud platform, was notable by its absence.

In a statement to The Register, a Microsoft spokesperson said it maintains an ongoing partnership with Redis. "We are focused on continuing to provide our customers with integrated solutions like Azure Cache for Redis, ensuring they have uninterrupted service and access to the latest updates." In a related blog post, Microsoft said Redis's dual-license model provided "greater clarity and flexibility, empowering developers to make informed decisions about how they utilize Redis technologies in their projects."

However, Microsoft also recently published a post introducing Garnet, "a remote cache-store designed to offer high performance, extensibility, and low latency." Based on the Redis serialization protocol (RESP), Garnet could be used with unmodified Redis clients available in most programming languages, it said.

Peter Zaitsev, founder and former CEO of open source database consultancy Percona, said Microsoft had presented a Redis alternative that is wire-protocol compatible.

"Microsoft also has a Redis alternative, but in their take, they are not forking the code, it is a complete reimplementation. Microsoft probably also doesn't see themselves buying the licence and paying Redis the company for the pleasure of hosting the Redis database in the same way it pays for the pleasure of hosting Oracle," he told us.

In 2020, Redis became the most popular database on AWS, which itself is by far the most popular cloud infrastructure and platform as a service provider. This might owe a lot to the in-memory system becoming a defacto cache for web applications, but the company Redis Inc – formerly Redis Labs – has spent the last few years trying to build it out into a general-purpose database by adding features to enhance consistency, boost machine learning, and bolster JSON document support.

In its move to provide a fully open source alternative, the Linux Foundation was showing it was prepared to get behind the developer community, Zaitsev said.

"The Linux Foundation chose community over sponsors," he said. "I was excited to see it just took days. It was like, boom: 'Redis, you choose to [mess with] the community, then the Linux Foundation stands behind community.' I think that was wonderful."

In terms of when developers might consider switching to Valkey, Zaitsev advised giving it a few months.

"You can still run the open source Redis for a while. Valkey will take a few months to spin up and test the whole infrastructure. But after getting a few releases of Valkey, I would encourage developers to move to that release," he said.

"If you're a developer who is really seriously using Redis, I would get engaged with the Valkey community now to make sure their software matches your needs. If you say, 'Hey, we want to just use a product when it's ready,' well then maybe by that time it's too late to fix." ®

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