MongoDB Creates New License To Protect It From Cloud Service Providers

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MongoDB has had enough of cloud service providers offering the Community Edition of its database as a service to clients. Yesterday, it announced a new software license to stop them doing just that.

The company had hitherto used the GNU Affero General Public License (GPL) v3, but has altered it, calling it the Server-Side Public License (SSPL). You can see the explicit alterations here, which make one significant addition. Section 13 now lays out strict terms under which people can deploy MongoDB Community Server as a service.

Under the GPL, anyone offering the software as a service would have to make the source code available for download. The new terms expand that, requiring them to make the ‘Service Source Code’ available. This means not just the source code for the software, but also the source code for any other software used to serve it from the cloud. This includes “management software, user interfaces, application program interfaces, automation software, monitoring software, backup software, storage software and hosting software, all such that a user could run an instance of the service using the Service Source Code you make available,” the SSPL says.

In short, MongoDB demands service providers give up their own secret sauce if they want to capitalize on its free software.

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This license has been introduced separately from the Free Software Foundation, which publishes the GPL, but MongoDB has submitted the license to the Open Source Initiative (OSI, which manages a different set of open source licenses including the ‘lesser’ LGPL) for approval. The license will apply to all patch releases and versions of MongoDB Community Server released from now on, including future patch releases of older versions, the database developer said.

The license won’t apply to people offering MongoDB internally to their employees as a service, and it won’t apply to SaaS companies using it as the basis for their services, the company added.

The new license doesn’t violate “freedom 0” of the FSF’s four essential freedoms, which dictates the freedom to run a program as you wish, MongoDB contends. “It does not place any restrictions on running the software for any purpose, it only places a condition on doing so,” it says in the FAQ.

MongoDB has its own cloud-based Mongo-as-a-service offering in the form of MongoDB Atlas, which it launched in the summer of 2016. That service runs on AWS, which is doubtless one of the “international cloud vendors” that it is responding to as they “test the boundaries of the AGPL license“.

Last week, MongoDB acquired San Francisco-based Mongo-in-the-cloud service mLab, to flesh out its Atlas offering.

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