So long, Elasticsearch

The open source community has been rocked by a couple of big changes recently. One of those events was when MongoDB announced a change to their licensing. Initially released under the AGPL, MongoDB changed to their own Server Side License. Why? Because MongoDB was being sold as a product by some cloud providers without contributing anything back to the MongoDB project. Simple math tells you that’s not good for the project and not sustainable for the MongoDB company long term.

A more recent event is Elasticsearch changing its model from the Apache license to a new license called the Server Side Public License and/or the Elastic License. Their reason? Same as MongoDB’s reason. Cloud providers are offering Elasticsearch as a service without any contributions back to the Elasticsearch product. This puts Elasticsearch as a company at risk and, as a result, open source as well. However, Elasticsearch has one problem. It is built upon Apache Lucene which is developed under the Apache license.

It is also worth nothing that previously the Elasticsearch webpage had clearly stated that the base Elasticsearch would always be available under the Apache license. The business landscape definitely changes fast. Nothing is constant. But strong words like that rarely do you any favors. Cases like this where the words can haunt you do more damage than the hollow words ever did for you.

With these changes a fork seemed inevitable and it finally happened. AWS announced they are forking the Elasticsearch and Kibana projects. No reason to duplicate their post here so take a look for how they say this will impact their AWS Elasticsearch service and the AWS Open Distro for Elasticsearch. AWS says they are “in this for the long haul.” To me, that sounds like words meant to intimidate Elasticsearch instead of reassuring the community.

The title of the AWS blog post making these announcements is “Stepping up for a truly open source Elasticsearch.” Are they? No, they are not. The time for that is long past. The time for stepping up was when they first made their hosted AWS Elasticsearch product available. That was their change to step up, be a good member of the community, and give the open source project the contributions it deserved.

Let’s not forget the people who made Elasticsearch what it is today. The individual contributors to the project not affiliated with Elasticsearch. Their time and contributions given to the project just to have the project’s license changed seems like an unfair response, not at all ignoring Elasticsearch’s motive.

I have personally always enjoyed Elasticsearch. I have attended the Elasticsearch Engineer I and II training classes. I always found the project a pleasure to work with and very capable. That’s a powerful combination. But now things have changed. What does the Elasticsearch of tomorrow look like?

To me it looks a lot like Apache Solr.

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