Chef aims to cook on gas with newly unveiled ‘100% open always’ mentality

Software and DevOps provider Chef has announced a commitment to move to open source for all of its software going forward, saying it “welcomes any use of its open source projects for any purpose.”

The move will see Chef use the Apache 2.0 license and allows open source collaboration under the four essential freedoms of FOSS (free and open source software); to run the program as wished for any purpose, to study how the program works and change it so it does computing as wished, the freedom to redistribute copies to help others, and the freedom to distribute copies of modified versions to others.

CEO Barry Crist wrote in a blog post explaining the move that the company was ‘not making this change lightly.’ “Over the years we have experimented with and learned from a variety of different open source, community and commercial models, in search of the right balance,” Crist wrote.

“We believe that this change, and the way we have made it, best aligns the objectives of our communities with our own business objectives,” he added. “Now we can focus all of our investment and energy on building the best possible products in the best possible way for our community without having to choose between what is ‘proprietary’ and what is ‘in the commons.’

“Most importantly, we can do that, with each of you, completely in the open.”

In other words, future software produced will be created in public repos, while the company also promised greater visibility to the public in terms of its product development process and roadmap.

This is being extended out to Chef’s enterprise customers as well with the launch of Chef Enterprise Automation Stack, which looks at ‘expressing infrastructure, security policies and application lifecycle as code’. Previously distinct products, Chef Automate, Infra, InSpec, Habitat and Workstation, will be unified ‘to enable a seamless transition from establishing compliance through application automation.’

“Enterprises demand a more curated and streamlined way to deploy and update our software and content,” added Crist. “They want a relationship with us as the leading experts in DevOps, automation, and Chef products…and beyond just technical innovations, these companies require assurance in the form of warranties, indemnifications, and support. We will make our distributions freely available for non-commercial use, experimentation, and individuals so anyone can get started with ease.”

The strategy seems to make sense from a user perspective with many IT organisations eschewing proprietary software or adopting an ‘open-first’ mentality. As Holger Mueller, VP at Constellation Research, put it, drawing clear lines between open source and commercial while ensuring they were the same ‘serves both vendors’ and their users’ most pressing needs.’

It may be interesting to explore this in the context of other moves made in the market. As many open source players have found in recent months, their previous licensing models have felt not quite restrictive enough. Redis Labs was especially vocal, explaining in February that it was clarifying its conditions – under Apache2 modified with commons clause – because developers were left unsure whether they were in the right of wrong. Other companies looking at licensing changes include MongoDB and Confluent.

You can read the full Chef blog post here.

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