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CrateDB 4.5 takes distributed SQL database open source

The distributed SQL database vendor is out with a new version of its CrateDB database that brings improved security and management features for on-premises and cloud deployments.

Database vendor Crate.io said it is moving its entire codebase to an open source licensing model.

Based in San Francisco, Calif., Crate.io develops and supports the CrateDB platform, a distributed SQL database that is optimized for time series data analysis.

Before its new Crate 4.5 release, introduced March 23 along with the move to open source, CrateDB came as an open core model, in which there is an open source base, or "core," community edition and an enterprise platform that builds on top with proprietary features not available in open source.

With the shift to an entirely open source codebase, features that had previously only been available in the enterprise edition of CrateDB are now in the open source CrateDB 4.5 milestone. Among the key capabilities that were previously proprietary features are security and visualization functions that make CrateDB more secure and easier to manage and use.

Adam Ronthal, an analyst at Gartner, said the open source licensing is designed to improve reach and adoption of CrateDB's technology, and should help drive cloud monetization.

"As a small ISV [independent software vendor], CrateDB faces challenges in competing against both native [cloud service provider] offerings and specialized offerings from other ISVs, " Ronthal said. "A strong price-performance story, which CrateDB has, will be critical to their long-term success."

Why CrateDB is going fully open source

The decision to move to a fully open source licensing model for CrateDB was actually made in 2020, as Crate.io brought in new CEO Eva Schönleitner.

A strong price-performance story, which CrateDB has, will be critical to their long-term success.
Adam RonthalAnalyst, Gartner

"One of the first discussions we had at that time was what are we doing in terms of product going forward," Schönleitner said of her first few months as CEO. "We decided on the open source direction by the end of the year."

As all the code in the enterprise edition was written by Crate.io employees, the vendor owned all the intellectual property and was able to easily make the code open source, according to Schönleitner.

She noted that more than changing the license, this is a change in philosophy at Crate.io. Rather than withholding features from the community edition, there is now one edition and one development path for code development. Schönleitner added that her company continues to operate the CrateDB Cloud product, a managed database-as-a-service offering, though it is now based on open source code.

The core CrateDB database is now freely available as an open source technology as well, with Crate.io providing support services for paying customers.

A view of the open source CrateDB 4.5 update
The open source CrateDB 4.5 update now integrates enhanced visualization and database monitoring that had previously only been available in the proprietary enterprise edition.

Open source CrateDB and the risk of cloud cannibalization

A primary reason why some vendors have chosen to have an open core approach or avoid open source altogether is the potential risk of "cloud cannibalization."

If a project is open core, the enterprise technology is not open source and can't be taken by a cloud provider.

Cloud cannibalization is when a public cloud provider takes an open source project and offers it as a service on their own platform, without engaging with the primary vendor leading the project. One such example where that has occurred is with Elasticsearch and AWS.

"As a company, we can provide a lot more around this open source product in terms of services. Since we create the product, we are also probably the best option to run it," said Georg Traar, head of customer engineering at Crate.io. "Yes, AWS might have their own solution and I think we have to be fine with that."

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