Amazon announces its own Elasticsearch fork

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Amazon has announced that it will be working on its own open-source fork of Elasticsearch, called OpenSearch. The company is doing this after Elasticsearch itself abandoned its Apache licensing model.

Amazon informed us that they started a new search engine project called OpenSearch. Besides OpenSearch, it also comes with OpenSearch Dashboard, which is derived from Elastic’s Kibana service. The extra features that Amazon had added to its earlier Elasticsearch distribution, called Open Distro for Elasticsearch, will fall under the OpenSearch project.

Tension between Elastic and AWS

The new fork of Elasticsearch is a new development in the battle between Elastic and AWS. Elastic previously complained that AWS was abusing the open-source model of Elasticsearch. AWS maintained its customized version of Elasticsearch, called Open Distro. The company offered this version extensively in its AWS products, without providing anything in return to Elastic. This proved a burden to Elastic. Elastic was not the only company to get upset about AWS’s practices. Seven open-source companies considered taking the cloud giant to court.

Use of software was lawful

AWS responded to Elastic’s criticism by saying that it does not use open-source software to profit from the labour of others but that this stems from the goal of giving customers what they want. The company claims it does contribute to other major open-source projects.

Elastic switches to new licensing model

For this reason, Elastic has decided to move away from the Apache 2.0 licensing model and to charge a licence fee for the use of its software in future. AWS has now apparently decided that it is not willing to pay the licence fee and would rather take over development itself. Therefore, the company has taken the last version of Elasticsearch that still falls under Apache 2.0 (being Elasticsearch 7.10.2) and started its own fork based on it.

In practice, this means that Amazon has renamed its existing project and continues to develop it. Amazon’s software remains open-source under the Apache 2.0 licence, but is no longer supplemented with new code from Elastic. OpenSearch and OpenSearch Dashboards can be found on GitHub.