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July 10, 2019updated 11 Jul 2019 10:58am

Cloudera Bucks an Industry Trend, Doubles Down on Open Source

"Our company writes a prodigious amount of open source code"

By CBR Staff Writer

Hadoop wrangler Cloudera has bucked a trend to tighten control of open source code by protecting it under ever more restrictive licences, today announcing plans to go all-in on AGPL and Apache 2.0 licences, make closed licence components of its products open source, and double-down on its Apache Software Foundation (ASF) activity.

The commitment by the US-based enterprise data specialist will extend to its forthcoming Cloudera Data Platform (CDP); the company’s much-awaited joint product with Hortonworks following last year’s $5.2 billion merger (which closed in January this year). Cloudera hopes to emulate Red Hat’s support-based commercial success it said.

The company admitted it had been mulling a modified open source license – as Redis, Elastic, MongoDB and others have opted for – but determined that it wants to bring Cloudera’s business model and licencing/subscription approach “as close to possible as Red Hat’s”; with free unsupported releases, and paid-for versions featuring support and maintenance, updates and security patches to drive revenue.

(Chief Marketing Office Mick Hollison earlier this year had told Computer Business Review: “The reality is that the large cloud infrastructure providers, as it stands today, can very easily just take the open source bits – whether they do or do not contribute them back to the community – and compete vigorously.)

DataStax’s Patrick McFadin described the move to Computer Business Review as an “adoption play. He added: “AGPL is an interesting choice. That is the license originally conceived in the world of software as a service. Not as blatant as some of the other recent licensing moves. What they move to AGPL could be telling.”

(Apache 2 essentially makes software free to copy and use. AGPL makes it free to use, but if you use AGPL-licensed code, you have to make your software open under GPL).

Inspiring though Red Hat may be, Cloudera has a long way to go before it comes close to emulating the company’s success: today’s announcement follows a grim set of results for the company in June, the departure of CEO Tom Reilly, and operating losses hitting $35 million. The move is likely to win it developer support however and quite possibly customer plaudits too: particularly if its CDP proves up to scratch.

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“All of the open source projects that we contribute to that are hosted by the Apache Software Foundation will continue to be ASF governed projects,” Cloudera said today, pledging to take its Cloudera Manager, Cloudera Navigator, and Cloudera Data Science Workbench open source. “Furthermore, we will continue to contribute our enhancements and fixes to those projects upstream first.”

Cloudera Open Source Decision: Not Retroactive

“We are not making the license changes retroactive to already shipped releases, but we do plan to enact the license changes for all releases moving forward including HDP, CDH and the upcoming Cloudera Data Platform (CDP).  In this way, we can treat customers equally regardless of which platform version they plan to use.  We plan to make the software distribution changes across all releases and versions” Cloudera said.

New subscription agreement and software distribution model roll-out will start in September, with new open source projects for formerly closed source components licensed under the AGPL launching between September 2019 and January 2020.

Following IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat, which closed yesterday, the company claims to be the world’s largest independent open source vendor by patches and by revenue.

“With more than 700 engineers that are part of the new Cloudera, our company writes a prodigious amount of open source code… We’re also an innovative open source company with more than a dozen new open source projects launched since the founding of Cloudera and Hortonworks. We take our open source leadership role seriously, and recognize the need to align the Hortonworks and Cloudera licensing models as an opportunity to renew our commitment to free software.”

The decision will allow customers to avoid vendor lock-in, support an open ecosystem and boost a community standards-based approach to development, Cloudera’s team said.


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