Lightbend Changes its Software Licensing Model for Akka Technology

The licensing changes for the toolkit for building highly distributed applications, which is used extensively by global software giants and cloud companies alike, will ensure its future development

Lightbend, the company providing a cloud-native microservices platform for some of the world’s largest brands, announced significant changes to the licensing model for its Akka technology. Used extensively by industry leaders in financial services, ecommerce, automotive, web services, cloud infrastructure, and gaming, Akka stands alone in its ability to deliver highly concurrent, distributed, and resilient event-driven applications for Java and Scala. Lightbend is changing the license on all Akka modules from Apache 2.0 to the BSL v1.1 (Business Source License), starting with Akka v2.7, which will be delivered in October.

“We have decided to change Akka’s license to ensure a healthy balance between all parties, shared responsibility, and, by extension, contribute to Akka’s future development,” said Jonas Bonér, Lightbend’s founder and CEO, as well as the creator of Akka. “This will enable Akka to remain at the forefront of building innovative solutions that are used by many globally recognized brands to build and run some of their most business-critical applications.”

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The “open core” business model Akka relied upon has demonstrated its limitations not just for Lightbend, but for many other organizations in similar circumstances. Once an OSS project becomes so critical to an organization’s daily operation, many larger enterprises turn to self-supporting this software, without contributing anything more to its development or the community at large, despite the fact that, in many instances, these organizations are generating significant profits leveraging this “free” technology.

Under Akka’s new licensing model, any organization with less than $25m in annual revenue will not require license fees for production usage of the software, but a $0 commercial license must still be granted by Lightbend. For those larger businesses with more than $25m in annual revenue, a paid license plus a subscription, of which there are several options, is required for production usage. The license does not permit back-porting of any software released under the new license.

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The Business Source License v1.1 was crafted by MariaDB Corporation AB, and has been used by Cockroach Labs amongst other organizations. The BSL is not an open-source license. It works in 2 stages:

  • Commercial – Software is viewable (Source Available), downloadable and usable in non-production environments. Production usage requires a software license from Lightbend.
  • Open Source – After 3 years the source for that version will be released under the current Apache 2.0 license. The license offers a customizable “Additional Use Grant” that will be used to grant usage for other OSS projects (particularly the Play Framework)
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