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January 25, 2021

Momentum Builds to Break Elasticsearch Licensing Deadlock


A backlash against Elastic’s licensing strategy continues to build, with critics promising to break the licensing log jam via a “community-owned Elasticsearch codebase.”

The fight over the future of Elasticsearch dates back to March 2019 when Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN) launched its Open Distro for Elasticsearch. Elastic, the company behind Elasticsearch, responded by accusing Amazon of copying code, inserting bugs into the community code and engaging with the company under false pretenses.

The dispute culminated last week with Elastic’s controversial decision to shift away from an Apache license to a dual license strategy that includes a Server-Side Public License, or SSPL, along with an Elastic License. AWS considers that approach unworkable, citing an Open Source Initiative declaration that SSPL is “not an open source license.”

Meanwhile, other companies are banding together to forge what they assert will be a “true open source distribution” of Elasticsearch. Leading the charge is, which is heading those effort in collaboration with AWS.

In response to our query, said it expects to launch open source distributions of Elasticsearch and Kibana, the open source data visualization dashboard for Elasticsearch, in the next few weeks. “First, we’re working on aligning the key contributors on a vision and governance,” it added.

The company declined to identify its partners by name, saying only they include Fortune 100 companies. “Some are groups of community developers. And of course, this initiative is based on collaboration between AWS and,” it continued.

In a separate blog post challenging Elastic’s move, AWS said last week it would launch and maintain an Apache-licensed fork for open source Elasticsearch and Kibana. Forking, a means of restarting software development, refers to applying source code from an open source software program to develop an alternative program.

“Elastic’s license change, nor our decision to fork, will have any negative impact on the Amazon Elasticsearch Service (Amazon ES),” AWS added. It currently offers 18 versions of Elasticsearch on Amazon ES, and “none of these are affected by the license change,” it stressed.

Tomer Levy,’s co-founder and CEO noted in the blog post: “Our goal is to have these two new projects be driven by multiple organizations and not by a single commercial organization. They are planned to be Apache-2 forever and community-driven, so they can ultimately be contributed to foundations,” including the Apache Software Foundation or the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Levy called Elastic’s licensing strategy “disappointing” but not unexpected. “I know that the choice of licensing under SSPL is designed to block AWS from competing,” he added. “However, if ordinary users take this license to their legal department, they will tell them it is clearly an unclear license that will impose additional risks.”

Elastic did not respond to our request for comment on the latest Elasticsearch licensing proposals.

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Update: Elastic Shifts Licensing Terms, Cites Amazon Moves

War Unfolding for Control of Elasticsearch

–Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the title of’s Tomer Levy. He is CEO.