Grafana Labs was founded in 2014 to build a sustainable business around the open source Grafana project, so that revenue from our commercial offerings could be re-invested in the technology and the community. Since then, we’ve expanded further in the open source world — creating Grafana Loki and Grafana Tempo and contributing heavily to projects such as Graphite, Prometheus, and Cortex — while building the Grafana Cloud and Grafana Enterprise Stack products for customers.
Our company has always tried to balance the “value creation” of open source and community with the “value capture” of our monetization strategy. The choice of license is a key pillar of this strategy, and is something that we’ve deliberated on extensively since the company began.
Over the last few years, we’ve watched closely as almost every at-scale open source company that we admire (such as Elastic, Redis Labs, MongoDB, Timescale, Cockroach Labs, and many others) has evolved their license regime. In almost all of these cases, the result has been a move to a non-OSI-approved source-available license.
We have spent the first months of 2021 having sometimes contentious but always healthy internal debates over this topic, and today we are announcing a change of our own.
Going forward, we will be relicensing our core open source projects (Grafana, Grafana Loki, and Grafana Tempo) from the Apache License 2.0 to the Affero General Public License (AGPL) v3. Plugins, agents, and certain libraries will remain Apache-licensed. You can find information in GitHub about what is being relicensed for Grafana, Loki, and Tempo.
Ensuring we maintain these freedoms for our community is a big priority for us. While AGPL doesn’t “protect” us to the same degree as other licenses (such as the SSPL), we feel that it strikes the right balance. Being open source will always be at the core of who we are, and we believe that adopting AGPLv3 allows our community and users to by and large have the same freedoms that they have enjoyed since our inception.
It’s important to note that this change does not prevent our users from using, modifying, or providing our open source software to others — provided, however, that under the AGPL license, users have to share source code if they are modifying it and making it available to others (either as a distribution or over a network). For distributors, AGPL has the same source code sharing requirements as GPL. Those conditions are designed to encourage third parties looking to modify the software to also contribute back to the project and the community. We think this is a fairer way forward, and one that we believe will help us build a stronger community.
As part of this change, we are also updating our contributor license agreement (CLA) to a new CLA based on the CLA set forth by The Apache Software Foundation. We have chosen this CLA because of its popularity and familiarity to community members. We also believe it very clearly spells out the license terms and is balanced between the contributor’s interests and Grafana Labs’ rights to relicense the changes.
We understand that our community members will have questions about this licensing change — likely many of the same ones asked by our own team members. You can find my answers in this Q&A on the blog.