Globus chooses BSD-style license with eyes wide open

I believe that when vendors build proprietary Grid products on open source, everyone benefits.

Ian Foster

The Globus Consortium, which is working on standards for open source grid computing, is releasing its toolkit under the  BSD-style Apache 2.0 license (APL2).

In an online journal released today, co-founder Ian Foster (right, from ZDNet's Between the Lines) described the group's reasoning. BSD is "enterprise friendly," he wrote, and the license isn't attached automatically to projects written under it, unlike the more "viral" GPL.

Still, the decision to go with a BSD license involved careful study.

Eben Moglen, chair of the Software Freedom Law Center, contributed an interview to the Globus journal, extolling the benefits of the GPL.

"Many of the people who do free software projects would probably say they don't want to do unpaid work for Microsoft," he said in the interview. But this may be one aspect of BSD-style licensing that actually appealed to Foster, as he explained in his article:

We chose this BSD-style license because we believe that vendor incorporation of Globus Toolkit code into their proprietary offerings is a key to enterprise adoption. IBM's Grid Toolbox, Sun's Grid Engine and Nortel Network's Dynamic Resource Allocation Controller (DRAC) are examples of early Grid products that use the Globus Toolkit. The APL2 license allows these vendors to use Globus Toolkit implementations of the open standards in their Grid products. Thus, those products are able to interoperate with other hardware and software resources in their customers' IT envrionments.

I believe that when vendors build proprietary Grid products on open source, everyone benefits.

In his interview, Moglen was understanding on these requirements, noting that Apache-licensed servers work well, from a legal standpoint, within the Internet structure. "Each and every Apache-infused device in the Grid, only has to be able to obey the protocols like HTTP, HTTPH, SSL. As long as it does that through open protocols and open standards, there's no problem," he said.

But he predicted that, in time,  the multiplicity of BSD licenses, along with the cost of protecting patents, will lead even large enterprises and groups like Globus toward seeing the wisdom in the GPL. " I know no serious thinker in the world who thinks that Microsoft's power is going to grow - or that after Microsoft, there will arise a software power more vigorous and more exclusionary than Microsoft. Over time, things will get more open, not less open."