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Redis Labs Looks to Grow Database Technology for Next Generation Applications

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Posted February 22, 2019 By Sean Michael Kerner     Feedback

Despite some open source licensing issues, Redis is moving forward.

Database technology provides a foundational role in modern applications, and one of the emerging database technologies of the last few years has been Redis.

Redis in recent months has been the subject of a fair bit of controversy as well, as it has sought to challenge the core tenets of open source, the model on which its software was built. Open source licensing issues aside, however, business has been strong for Redis, and the company is looking to grow. On Feb. 19, Redis Labs announced a $60 million Series E round of funding led by Francisco Partners and including the participation of Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing, Bain Capital Ventures, Viola Ventures, and Dell Technologies Capital.

"The impact of the Redis platform is being experienced everywhere as enterprises look to modernize or build new applications," Ofer Bengal, co-founder and CEO at Redis Labs, wrote in a statement.

Redis Labs is the lead contributor behind the open source Redis database and the Redis Enterprise solution. The enterprise platform recently added new capabilities, including RedisGraph and Streams.

RedisGraph is built on the GraphBLAS open source library, providing organizations with a graph database approach for data calculations. Streams, in contrast, are a data structure available in the open source version for Redis, enabling organizations to stream data that can be monitored and used to trigger events.

"There are numerous emerging environments that require zero latency to deliver on their promise — autonomous vehicles, facial recognition, smart homes, and many more," Manish Gupta, CMO at Redis Labs, wrote in a statement. "RedisGraph and Streams will help companies make their apps, devices, and systems deliver the instantaneous experiences consumers expect."

Open Source

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The core Redis database had been open source under the BSD license, which enables other organizations and individuals to use the code freely. In August 2018, however, Redis announced that it was changing the licensing for some of Redis to a new license known as the Commons Clause.

The Commons Clause limits the ability of an individual or organization to use the code in a way that will generate revenue as a service, for example in a cloud provider. Redis was concerned that cloud providers were benefiting from Redis for free, without any revenue flowing back to Redis Labs.

"We wanted to make sure open source companies could continue to contribute to their projects, while still maintaining sustainable business in the cloud era," Yiftach Shooman, co-founder and CTO of Redis Labs wrote in a blog post.

Among the many challenges with that approach is that the Common Clause is not open source. Open source is not a marketing term, and it's not a philosophy in a licensing sense. The open source definition is maintained by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), which is the arbiter of whether a given license complies with the definition and can be considered to be open source software.

Redis Labs is now moving away from Common Clause and is instead using a license it created called the Redis Source Available License (RSAL).

"With RSAL, developers can use the software; modify the source code’ integrate it with an application; and use, distribute or sell their application," Shooman wrote. "The only restriction is that the application cannot be a database, a caching engine, a stream processing engine, a search engine, an indexing engine or an ML/DL/AI serving engine."

It's important to note that the RSAL applies only to Redis modules. The company was already licensing enterprise features available in the Redis Enterprise platform under a commercial license. The core Redis database remains available under the BSD license.

"We have chosen not to limit the functionality of open source Redis by moving core components to closed source," Shooman said. "Consequently, open source Redis includes all the ingredients needed to run a distributed database system — replication, auto-failover, data-persistence and clustering."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseAppsToday and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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