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Why AWS, Google and Oracle support Valkey Redis fork

The Linux Foundation announced last week that it will host Valkey, a fork of the Redis in-memory data store. Valkey is supported by AWS, Google Cloud, Oracle, Ericsson, and Snap.

AWS and Google Cloud rarely support open source forks together. However, when Redis Labs moved Redis away from the permissive 3-clause BSD license and adopted the stricter Server-Side Public License (SSPL) on March 20, a fork was always one of the most likely outcomes. At the time of the license change, Redis Labs CEO Rowan Trollope said he “wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon sponsored the fork” because the new license requires a commercial agreement to provide Redis as a service, which makes it similar to “open source” Standard definition.

It’s worth taking a few steps back to see how we got here. After all, Redis is one of the most popular data stores and is at the heart of many large commercial and open source deployments.

A brief history of Redis

There have actually been some licensing disputes throughout the life of Redis. Redis founder Salvatore Sanfilippo started the project in 2009 under the BSD license, partly because he hoped to be able to create a commercial fork at some point, but also because “BSD [license] Allowing many branches to compete with different licensing and development philosophies,” he said in a recent Hacker News commentary.

After Redis quickly became popular, Garantia became the first major Redis service provider. Garantia changed its name to RedisDB in 2013, but Sanfilippo and the community resisted. After some time, Garantia eventually changed its name to Redis Labs and in 2021 to Redis.

Sanfilippo joined Redis Labs in 2015 and later transferred his intellectual property to Redis Labs/Redis before resigning from the company in 2020. Just a few years ago, Redis changed the way its Redis modules are licensed, which includes visualization tools, client SDKs, and more. For these modules, Redis first used the Apache license and added the Commons Clause to restrict others from selling and hosting these modules. At the time, Redis said that despite this change in the module, “the license of open source Redis has never changed. It is BSD and will always be BSD.” This commitment continued until a few weeks ago.

In a statement, Redis’ Trollope reiterated what he told me when the changes were first announced, emphasizing how large cloud vendors can profit from the open source version and be free to enter into commercial agreements with Redis.

“Major cloud service providers all have commercial interests from the Redis open source project, so it is not surprising that they are launching forks within the foundation,” he wrote. “Our licensing changes open the door for CSPs to establish fair licensing agreements with Redis Inc. Microsoft has reached an agreement, and we are pleased and willing to enter into a similar relationship with AWS and GCP. We remain focused on our role as Redis project stewards “

Cloud providers support Valkey

The current reality, however, is that major cloud vendors other than Microsoft quickly rallied behind Valkey. This fork originated in AWS, where long-time Redis maintainer Madelyn Olson originally started the project in her own GitHub account. Olson told me that after the news broke, many of the current Redis maintainers quickly decided it was time to leave. “When the news came out, everyone was like, ‘Well, we’re not going to contribute to this new license,’ so when I talked to everyone, ‘Hey, I have this fork – we’re trying to make The old team stuck together,” she said. “Almost everyone said, ‘Yeah, I’m on board right away.'”

The original Redis private channel included five maintainers: three Zhao Zhao from Redis, Olson and Alibaba, and a small group of committers who also immediately signed up to what is now Valkey. As expected, the Redis maintainers are not signed on, but as David Nally, director of open source strategy and marketing at AWS, told me, the Valkey community will welcome them with open arms.

Olson noted that she had always known that such changes were possible and were fully within the rights of the BSD license. “I’m more disappointed. [Redis] Having been a good steward in the past, I think the community is a little disappointed with this change. “

Nally pointed out that “from an AWS perspective, we may not want to see Redis Inc. make such a choice.” But he also admitted that Redis has every right to make this change. When asked if AWS had considered purchasing a license from Redis, he gave a diplomatic answer, noting that AWS “considers a lot of things” and nothing is off the table in the team’s decision.

“It’s certainly their prerogative to make that decision,” he said. “While we’ve made some other decisions as a result about where to focus our efforts and time, Redis remains an important partner and customer, and we share a large number of customers. So we want them to succeed. But from an open source perspective, We are investing now to ensure Valkey’s success.”

It’s unusual for a fork to come together so quickly and gain support from so many companies under the auspices of the Linux Foundation (LF). This is something that previous Redis forks (such as KeyDB) did not have. But it turns out some of it was also fortuitous timing. The Redis announcement comes right in the middle of this year’s Cloud Native Computing Foundation KubeCon Europe conference in Paris. There, Nalley met with LF’s executive director, Jim Zemlin.

“This ruined KubeCon for me because suddenly I started having a lot of conversations about how we were going to respond,” he said. “[Zemlin] out of some concerns and volunteered the Linux Foundation as a potential home.So we went through the process of introducing Madelyn [Olson] and other maintainers from the Linux Foundation, just to see if they think this would be a compatible move. “

What’s next?

The Valkey team is working hard to release compatibility releases to provide a transition path for current Redis users. The community is also working on improving shared cluster systems, improving multi-threading performance, and more.

To sum up, it is unlikely that the functionality of Redis and Valkey will remain consistent in the long term, and Valkey may not become a direct replacement for Redis in the long run. One area that Redis (the company) is investing in is moving from memory to using flash storage, using RAM as a large high-performance cache. This is why Redis recently acquired Speedb. Olson noted that Valkey doesn’t have concrete plans for similar functionality yet, but doesn’t rule it out.

“There’s a lot of excitement going on right now,” Olson said. “I think before we were a little conservative with technology and trying to make sure we didn’t break things. Now, I think people are interested in building a lot of new things. We still want to make sure we don’t break things, but people are interested in updating the technology and It’s more interesting to try to make everything faster, more performant, more memory intensive. […] I think this is what happens when the guard changes, as a group of former maintainers are now essentially defunct. “

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