MinIO entered another licensing public dispute Friday, this time focused on Weka's use of its object storage. However, the fallout likely won't affect Weka customers.
Much like its licensing disagreement with Nutanix last year, MinIO claims Weka, a parallel file system provider, has violated its open source license by failing to disclose its use of MinIO open source distributed object storage software. Garima Kapoor, chief operating officer at MinIO, said in a blog post the company is "exercising our right to terminate and revoke any license or sublicense under Apache License v2 and the GNU AGPL v3 in accordance with the terms of those licenses."
Weka rebuffed the assertion. Nilesh Patel, chief product officer at Weka, wrote in a blog post this week that its Apache 2.0 licenses "are still fully valid, in full effect -- and are irrevocable."
The disagreement stems from a license change. As with the Nutanix dispute, MinIO claims there was a lack of proper attribution. But Weka states that it was done properly. While customers will likely be unaffected, the public nature of the dispute could prove effective in getting MinIO quick results but could also tarnish its reputation.
MinIO is used by several storage providers for its object storage capabilities, according to Keith Townsend, founder of the CTO Advisor, an IT consultancy. In recent years, MinIO switched its open source license from Apache 2.0 to the more controversial GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) v3.
Keith TownsendFounder, The CTO Advisor
While it has yet to be tested in court, the AGPL seems to suggest that everything produced under and associated with its license must be open source, Townsend said.
"This can be thought of as a poison pill: If you build your overall storage solution and include [MinIO's code] without attribution, then the license could be revoked," he said.
But Weka said it is using an older version of the open source license, Apache 2.0, and is in compliance with the license's language.
Publicly airing grievances
Unlike its dispute with Nutanix, MinIO's aim at Weka came without prior notification, according to Weka.
The airing of grievances in public has raised some concern among IT professionals. Darren Shepherd, chief architect and co-founder of Acorn Labs, tweeted that "[t]he optics of this for MinIO are just bad, whether it's justified or not. I don't even get how one can revoke a license."
Adam Jacob, CEO of System Initiative and co-founder of Chef, tweeted that while he's sympathetic to open source companies enforcing licensing agreements, MinIO's strategy "should drive everyone away from MinIO as a standard. That will hurt MinIO eventually."
Okay, fresh coffee thread on MinIO. I’m sympathetic to the need for license enforcement. I think everyone involved in open source should be. With that out of the way: it’s usually trivially fixable. It should be done first in private. They apparently went hard immediately.— Adam Jacob (@adamhjk) March 27, 2023
But taking the complaint public may create momentum around a possible resolution. Ray Lucchesi, president of Silverton Consulting, said it could be the quickest and most effective route for MinIO and "might force Weka to do something."
Townsend said MinIO is drawing attention to licensing issues.
"If I was a procurement shop, I would ask questions of my IT team if they are clear with licensing with MinIO," he said.
The effect on customers
MinIO stated in its blog post that Weka customers are in violation of the license, leading to "legal and security risks." The company declined to comment further.
In an email to TechTarget Editorial, Weka stated that there would be no changes for its customers or partners.
Townsend, however, encouraged Weka customers to look at their indemnification clause -- which assesses the amount of risk each party has and protection from liability -- for the licenses they use. Customers should make sure that their modules are indemnified or should contact Weka.
Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware and private clouds. He previously worked at StorageReview.com.