Instaclustr Elasticsearch cloud service becomes OpenSearch

Instaclustr has joined AWS in offering a managed cloud service for the open-source successor to Elasticsearch. We expect more to join the party soon.

Instaclustr, a company known for its managed open-source database cloud services, is formally transitioning its Elasticsearch service to the new OpenSearch project started by AWS. The service itself is not new – Instaclustr inaugurated its original Elasticsearch service roughly 18 months ago as a second source for what was then called the Open Distro for Elasticsearch.

In essence, this could be considered Open Distro for Elasticsearch 2.0. The difference this time is more than a name change: OpenSearch has scrubbed artifacts such as trademark references. It's a more complete clean room engineered distribution based on the last official open-source versions of Elasticsearch and Kibana (version 7.10.2). As managed service, Instaclustr handles all the provisioning, software patching and updating, monitoring, and alerting that the company already provides for its managed Cassandra, Redis, Kafka, and Spark services.

Of course, AWS also offers a similar service. The primary difference is that Instaclustr offers its service, not just on AWS, but on all three major public clouds.

The background for all this is the change in licensing from Elastic that has now resulted in an open-source fork. For all its concerns, Elastic as a company has not done badly, as its most recent quarter showed revenue growing 50% year over year. And, as long as they are not running their own cloud services, Elastic search customers can run the software for free. Nonetheless, given the popularity of AWS's Elasticsearch service, something had to give.

Originally, Elastic, the company, instituted a quasi-open source "Elastic" license that allowed customers to have access to and modify the source code with the exception that they could not offer a managed cloud service; it was for the so-called "X-Pack" features that accompanied the ELK stack that, at the time, was still under an Apache 2.0 license. Nonetheless, Elastic's licensing was downright confusing; some of the features of the core and extended stack had a mix of open source and proprietary or usage-limited content.

To guard its flank, AWS created the Open Distro for Elasticsearch project that initially addressed the core Elasticsearch-Logstash portion of the ELK stack (Kibana remains Apache 2 licensed). AWS made the project available through the same permissive Apache 2 software license formerly applied with the full ELK stack. It also ventured into capabilities that weren't completely in the clear, from an open-source standpoint, encompassing security, event monitoring and alerting, and SQL support.

Then last winter, Elastic bit the bullet with open source. It shifted the crown jewels – the ELK stack -- from Apache 2 to the same SSPL license introduced by MongoDB. That, in turn, prompted AWS to officially fork the entire project. Voila OpenSearch. As we noted back then, ZDNet colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols covered the blowout and the blowback.

In September, AWS formally rechristened Amazon Elasticsearch Service to Amazon OpenSearch Service. And now Instaclustr has done the same. So, OpenSearch is no longer an AWS one-off. There is now a second source for the official fork of the Elasticsearch stack, and we expect that it won't be the last.

Correction: Besides Instaclutr, Bonsai and Aiven both announced their own OpenSearch services.