Welcome!

Release Management Authors: Liz McMillan, Jnan Dash, Lori MacVittie, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Open Source Cloud

@CloudExpo: Article

Open Source Software License Obligations in Cloud Applications

Most software applications today incorporate some open source software directly or indirectly

The latest technology buzz, after the Internet, telecom, and mobile, is cloud computing. Hype or not, in various names and forms, cloud computing providers - platforms and applications alike - are counting on more than $40 billion in revenue in 2011 alone, growing to more than $241 billion in 2020, according to a recent report on "Sizing the Cloud" by Forrester Research.

Open Source Software in the Clouds
Most software applications today incorporate some open source software directly or indirectly (dynamically linked). Developer's resourcefulness, code reuse, and efficiencies of development make open source an attractive option for all technology organizations. Cloud applications are no exception and many applications deployed in clouds are either entirely open source (think OpenStack or OpenERP Server), or have a significant amount of open source in them. According to the "Future of Open Source Survey" released by Northbridge Venture Partners, there are now more than 470 open source projects targeting cloud computing.

The use of open source software in a cloud application is governed by certain obligations, usually contained in the associated open source license. Managing compliance with software licenses is like any other quality management process. A good quality assurance process makes sure that the deficiencies are discovered and corrected before a product is released to the market.

Once the market discovers a quality problem, correcting it could be costly. Until now, open source software license management has been more rigorously applied to products that were distributed in volume, such as desktop applications, networking devices, entertainment products or mobile devices. Ownership and licensing issues abound in the mass products domain - think Sony vs. LG, Apple vs. the world, Microsoft vs. Google, SFLC vs. Cisco/Linksys, SFLC vs. Samsung/Verizon, etc.

Cloud computing technology and platforms don't introduce new risks on their own, rather cloud-based software applications do. What separates a software application deployed in a cloud from other applications is that generally these applications are not distributed. They are perceived to be less visible from market scrutiny, and also don't fall under many of the obligations associated with copyleft licenses.

Open Source Licenses
The variety of licenses currently governing the use of open source software is extensive, with approximately 80 recognized by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). In reality, less than two dozen are exploited. Almost all open source licenses can be widely categorized into several varieties.

  • Public Domain licenses are basically free-for-all licenses you can do anything with (except sue the author).
  • Permissive licenses, such as MIT, BSD and Apache licenses are most common, as they can be modified and used in any open source or proprietary application as long as the attributions (copyright comments and the names of original authors/organizations) are not deleted.
  • Copyleft licenses have more or less protective (also referred to as restrictive) terms associated with them.
  • Weak copyleft licenses, including Eclipse Public License (EPL) and Mozilla Public License (MPL), allow modification and mixing of the open source code with proprietary code, as long as you make the non-modified open source code available somewhere on line and point to it in the documentation. LGPL (Lesser GPL) licenses are strongest in this category as they require modified code to be released in the source form (unless the application only links to the open source LGPL code and does not statically include it in the application).
  • Strong copyleft licenses, such as GPL version 2 and version 3, impact software that is distributed. Almost all of these licenses require software (using all or part of a copyleft open source software) be released under copyleft obligations (hence the term viral used for these licenses). Any proprietary code that is a modified version of the GPL code must also be made available in source form. GPLv3 specifically disallows use in its entirety or modified form in any DRM applications.

Alfero GPL and Cloud Applications
The Alfero version of the GPL (AGPL) license, issued by the Free Software Foundation in late 2007, goes one step further, extending the GPLv3 rules to applications that are not distributed. These include software developed mainly for in-house applications and software deployed in web services or cloud applications. Specifically, if the software deployed in a cloud application contains, in its entirety or modified form, any AGPL-licensed software, the source code for the entire running application must be made available to the community.

AGPL obligations, in summary, are the following:

  • Freedom of use - no license fee to use, modify, redistribute.
  • Copyleft - reciprocal usage and disclosure/permission requirements.
  • Source Code Provision requirement - source code must be provided with any distribution (propagation) of code (original and modified).
  • Modifications are allowed, but all modified files must have their source code freely available for use and modification by others.
  • Combination with other code is NOT permitted unless the other code is compatible or can be converted to GPL terms [copyleft].
  • Anti-Circumvention Protection - no code covered by GPLv3 may be included in or constrained by any anti-circumvention mechanism (technical or legal).
  • Software Patent License Grant - a software patent that is based in any part on GPLv3 code and distribute the product, you are deemed to grant a license to use, modify and redistribute that patent to all downstream users of the product.
  • "Tivo-ization" clause - if your product (that uses or is based around GPLv3 code) is bound by other licensing terms that are restrictive or otherwise incompatible with GPLv3, you may not convey (distribute) the product.

Certain versions of popular web applications such as SugerCRM, Launchpad and PHP-Fusion are licensed under AGPL.

Last Word...
Just like traditional software, it's important to know what is in your code as early as possible before it goes to market. As with all quality management processes, discovering your license obligations early in the development process reduces the cost and time spent fixing problems right before the product is released. Many cloud applications are not distributed, and therefore don't fall under obligations associated with many copyleft licenses, except the recent ones such as AGPL. To gain a clear understanding of third-party components and their license obligations a process must be put in place where external content is identified, tracked and managed. This can be done within a structured open source adoption process, either manually, or increasingly deploying automated tools.

More Stories By Lacey Thoms

Lacey Thoms is a marketing specialist and blogger at Protecode, a provider of open source license management solutions. During her time at Protecode, Lacey has written many articles on open source software management. She has a background in marketing communications, digital advertising, and web design and development. Lacey has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from Carleton University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Businesses are struggling to manage the information flow and interactions between all of these new devices and things jumping on their network, and the apps and IT systems they control. The data businesses gather is only helpful if they can do something with it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Witeck, Principal Technology Strategist at Citrix, will discuss how different the impact of IoT will be for large businesses, expanding how IoT will allow large organizations to make their legacy ap...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to connect your brand strategy with the right consumer. 24Notion ranked #12 on Corporate Social Responsibility - Book of List.
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CDS Global Cloud, an Infrastructure as a Service provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CDS Global Cloud is an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provider specializing in solutions for e-commerce, internet gaming, online education and other internet applications. With a growing number of data centers and network points around the world, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT de...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
Big Data has been changing the world. IoT fuels the further transformation recently. How are Big Data and IoT related? In his session at @BigDataExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will explore the interplay of Big Data and IoT. He will anatomize Big Data and IoT separately in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. He will then analyze the relationship between IoT and Big Data, specifically the drilldown of how the 4Vs of Big Data (Volume, Variety,...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. Adobe helps customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide-from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on its established design leadership, Adobe enables customers not o...