Recently Elastic (the company) announced a license change for their previously open-source core parts of Elasticsearch and Kibana, which they have clarified is targeted solely at Amazon AWS’s hosted option and Open Distro (which up to now is a re-packaging of the Apache-licensed Elasticsearch and Kibana with some nice add-ons to duplicate functionality only available in Elastic’s non-open licensed versions, including their free/gratis Basic license). I have been using Elasticsearch for over five years, have attended and even spoken at the Elastic{On} conference, and I believe this is a huge mistake. The company is prioritizing their shareholders over their user community. I’m not an AWS apologist, and believe they may have made some mistakes as well, but I do think they were fully in their rights to offer hosted Elasticsearch. In any case I’m mainly concerned about the future of Elasticsearch and its ties to Elastic. There is a large discussion on Hacker News, I posted some of my thoughts there:

Elastic is a 14 billion dollar company

I believe this is the real driver of this decision. $ESTC’s PE is -100 and PC is -2500, they need to drive a lot of business to their hosted cloud or sell many more licenses to support their valuation 1, and they’re not getting the subscriptions they need from the platform add-ons like Machine Learning, APM, and SIEM (43% YoY revenue growth is great, but I don’t believe it’s sustainable, and this licensing decision suggests neither does Elastic).

Base Elasticsearch and Kibana are sufficient for a large portion of use cases, including mine. Many other of the “ecosystem” tools they sell have other, established commercial or open-source options (e.g. Splunk vs SIEM, Jaeger/OpenTracing vs APM), and these options won’t tie you into the Elastic environment.

I think that this attempt to take a popular open-source project proprietary is going to blow up in their faces. Users will flock to OpenDistro and this will be the beginning of the end of Elastic unless they reverse this decision.

100% agree. We’re going to see an open-source fork, whether from Open Distro (which may have too much baggage) or a new, re-branded project, and many users who don’t need Elastic’s value-adds will flock there.

^1: Admittedly everything tech is severely overpriced right now.

I’m going to be keeping my eyes on developments in the coming weeks, but this has me seriously considering moving the clusters I manage to Open Distro or some open-source fork. I really like Elasticsearch the database, but right now I do not like Elastic the company (I’ve put my money where my mouth is - today I bought an Aug 21 put on $ESTC).

Drew DeVault has a pithy post that succinctly captures the philosophical perspective.

Update 2021-01-20

logz.io has stepped up and announced they will be working on an open-source distribution, along with “a growing number of organizations.” I believe this is what the community needs, and I look forward to more details in the coming weeks. Still no response from Open Distro to the licensing change, maybe Amazon will get aboard this effort?

Update 2021-01-22

Yesterday Amazon officially announced that they will be maintaining an Apache-2 fork of elasticsearch and kibana (presumably under some new name to be decided). This is the same effort being undertaken by logz.io et al, which is fantastic. I really think this is a win for everyone1 - the community gets a FOSS distribution, which is no longer driven by Elastic’s profit motivation (yes, it will be partially/mainly driven by Amazon’s instead, but their motivation is to offer a solid core hosted product, not add-ons), and it frees Elastic up to focus on their commercial customers and add-ons (although they probably don’t see it that way).


  1. besides $ESTC shareholders perhaps, but I may also be overestimating the affect this will have on their business. After all few customers who are currently paying for subscriptions will want to move, especially if they’ve bought into Elastic’s add-ons. ↩︎