“The Unstoppable Trio: Valkey Redis Fork Receives Support from AWS, Google, and Oracle”

The Linux Foundation last week announced that it will host Valkey, a fork of the Redis in-memory data store. Valkey is backed by AWS, Google Cloud, Oracle, Ericsson and Snap. AWS and Google Cloud rarely back an open-source fork together. At the time, Redis said that despite this change for the modules, “the license for open-source Redis was never changed. This fork originated at AWS, where longtime Redis maintainer Madelyn Olson initially started the project in her own GitHub account.

The Linux Foundation recently made a groundbreaking announcement, declaring that it would now be hosting Valkey, a fork of the popular Redis in-memory data store. What makes this development even more remarkable is the impressive backing behind Valkey, with support from AWS, Google Cloud, Oracle, Ericsson, and Snap.

It’s rare for AWS and Google Cloud to sponsor an open-source fork together. However, the recent move by Redis Labs to switch its licensing structure from the permissive 3-clause BSD license to the more restrictive Server Side Public License (SSPL) on March 20 has led to this moment. This change has been met with mixed reactions, with Redis Labs CEO Rowan Trollope stating that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon sponsors a fork,” as the new license requires commercial agreements for Redis-as-a-service, making it incompatible with the traditional definition of “open source.”

To understand how we reached this point, let’s take a step back and look at the history of Redis. Developed in 2009 by its founder Salvatore Sanfilippo, Redis has seen its share of licensing disputes. Sanfilippo initially launched the project under the BSD license to allow for the possibility of creating a commercial fork in the future and because it allows for healthy competition with different licensing and development principles.

The first major Redis service provider was Garantia, which rebranded to RedisDB in 2013. However, this was met with pushback from Sanfilippo and the community. The company was later renamed Redis Labs, and most recently, Redis. In 2015, Sanfilippo joined Redis Labs and transferred his intellectual property rights to the company, only to step down in 2020. That’s merely a couple of years after Redis changed its licensing approach for its Redis Modules, such as visualization tools and client SDKs. Initially using the Apache License with the added Commons Clause to restrict sales and hosting of these modules, Redis announced that their open-source license would not change and would remain as the BSD license. However, that commitment changed a few weeks ago with the release of Valkey.

Trollope reaffirmed in a statement what he had previously told media outlets, emphasizing that the large cloud providers had profited significantly from the open-source version and are welcome to negotiate a commercial agreement with Redis.

“The major cloud service providers have all benefited commercially from the Redis open-source project, so it’s not surprising that they are launching a fork within a foundation,” he said. “Our licensing change opened the door for CSPs to establish fair licensing agreements with Redis Inc. Microsoft has already come to an agreement, and we’re happy and open to creating similar relationships with AWS and GCP.”

The current reality, however, is that the major cloud vendors, with the exception of Microsoft, have quickly gotten behind Valkey. The fork was initiated at AWS by longtime Redis maintainer Madelyn Olson in her own GitHub account. As Olson explained, when the news broke, many of the current Redis maintainers were unwilling to continue contributing to the new license, leading to the formation of Valkey.

“When the news broke, everyone was just like, ‘Well, we’re not going to go contribute to this new license,’ and so as soon as I talked to everyone, ‘Hey, I have this fork – we’re trying to keep the old group together,'” she said. “Pretty much everyone was like, ‘yeah, I’m immediately on board.”

The original Redis private channel had five maintainers: three from Redis, Olson, and Alibaba’s Zhao Zhao, as well as a few committers who quickly signed on to what is now Valkey. While the maintainers from Redis did not join, AWS’s director for open-source strategy and marketing, David Nally, stated that the Valkey community welcomes them with open arms.

Olson said she had always known that this change was a possibility and well within the rights of the BSD license. However, she expressed disappointment with the decision, saying that “community is kind of disappointed in the change.”

Nally said, “from an AWS perspective, it probably would not have been the choice that we wanted to see out of Redis Inc.” Nevertheless, he acknowledged that Redis had every right to make this change. When asked whether AWS had considered purchasing a license from Redis, he replied diplomatically, stating that “AWS considered many options,” and that all avenues were on the table during the decision-making process.

“It’s certainly their prerogative to make such a decision,” Nally added. “While we have, as a result, made some other decisions about where we’re going to focus our energy and our time, Redis remains an important partner and customer, and we share a large number of customers between us. And so we hope they are successful. But from an open-source perspective, we’re now invested in ensuring the success of Valkey.”

The formation of a fork as quickly as Valkey has and with the support of multiple companies under the umbrella of the Linux Foundation (LF) is a rarity. It’s something previous Redis forks, such as KeyDB, did not experience. However, according to Nally, this was also fortuitous timing, as the announcement from Redis occurred during the European version of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s KubeCon conference, held in Paris, where he met LF’s executive director, Jim Zemlin.

“It ruined KubeCon for me because suddenly, I ended up in a lot of conversations about how we respond,” Nally recalled. “[Zemlin] had some concerns and volunteered the Linux Foundation as a potential home. So we went through the process of introducing Madelyn [Olson] and the rest of the maintainers to the Linux Foundation, just to see if they thought that it was going to be a compatible move.”

Looking ahead, the Valkey team is working on releasing a compatibility version for current Redis users to facilitate a smooth transition. They are also working on improving shared clustering systems, enhancing multi-threaded performance, and more. However, it’s unlikely that Valkey and Redis will stay aligned in terms of capabilities for long. As Redis (the company) invests in expanding beyond in-memory data storage to also incorporate flash storage, Valkey may not remain a drop-in replacement for Redis in the long term. Olson mentioned that while there are no concrete plans currently for similar capabilities within Valkey, it cannot be ruled out in the future.

“There is a lot of excitement right now,” she said. “I think previously we’ve been a little technologically conservative and trying to make sure we don’t break stuff. Whereas now, I think there’s a lot of interest in building of new things. We still want to make sure we don’t break things, but there’s a lot more interest in updating technologies and trying to make everything faster, more performant, and more memory dense. […] I think that’s what happens when a changing of the guard happens, and a bunch of previous maintainers are now essentially no longer there.”

Avatar photo
Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

Articles: 831

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *