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Server-side licensing leads to hike in public cloud prices

Changes made over the last year or so to protect open source revenue streams is starting to impact public cloud managed service costs

Server-side types of licensing are starting to hurt some public cloud customers, according to a new study looking at the move away from open source licensing. More than half of the IT professionals who took part in a recent Vanson Bourne survey for Percona believe that public cloud providers need to do more to support open source companies.

Public clouds rely heavily on open source IT infrastructure, and although the big providers do contribute some of their internal tech to the open source community, there has been a growing trend to develop managed services, based on popular open source products.

These services compete directly with the managed services offered by the original open source developer of these products. In effect, by providing rival managed services, some industry commentators argue that the public cloud providers are killing off the original developer’s revenue stream.

The Vanson Bourne/Percona research found that 58% of the IT professionals surveyed cite competition from public cloud companies that use open source projects but do not contribute back, as one of the top three challenges currently faced by open source companies.

As Computer Weekly has reported previously, a number of open source software providers have introduced new licensing specially to combat the threat from public cloud providers. For instance, MongoDB has a server-side public licence (SSPL) that charges cloud providers a fee for providing the software as a service on their platforms.

Grafana Labs recently relicensed its core open source projects from the Apache Licence 2.0 to the Affero General Public Licence (AGPL) v3. It has a revenue-sharing agreement with AWS, although the fees AWS pays Grafana Labs is classed as discretionary.

Nearly half of the survey respondents indicated concerns about changing open source licences, such as the Business Source Licence (BSL) and Server Side Public Licence (SSPL).

About two-thirds (67%) of the IT professionals who took part in the research said they were aware of the different licensing schemes available from open source software providers. Just under one-third (32%) said they mostly understood, but would need to do some further research, while 2% did not think there was a difference in the types of licence offered by open source providers.

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The survey also found that IT professionals felt the move to more proprietary licences in response to cloud company competition was bad for open source. Effects of this change included increased costs (44%), encouragement to lock in customers (37%), less engagement with the open source community (34%) and less growth in the open source market (26%).

According to Percona, the survey shows many respondents are confident that they are aware of the differences between open source and source available licences. But there are polarised views on the issue, suggesting there is some overconfidence in the understanding of source available licences.

Asked how public cloud providers can contribute back to open source, 59% of survey respondents said by providing better security, 48% said by encouraging open source collaboration, 43% said by improving existing code quality and 43% said by enabling open source to run on their cloud.

Percona also noted that the survey shows that positivity towards public cloud companies is unjustified as many respondents agree that open source companies should be able to protect themselves against public cloud’s influence, even if that restrictive licence could lead to the downfall of a truly “open” open source.

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