Netmaker Goes Open Source: Why We Switched to Apache-2.0

Posted by
September 21, 2023

Hello Netmaker Community,

We have exciting news to share: Netmaker is now open source! Live at the Open Source Summit in Europe, we merged the PR into master that moved our server from the SSPL to Apache License 2.0.  This marks a significant milestone for the Netmaker project, and we are thrilled about the opportunities this opens up for our community and the future of network automation.

Why the Switch?

Since day one, we have focused on creating a scalable, secure, and automated networking platform built on WireGuard.

We made this switch to allow Netmaker to act as a base platform for anyone looking to automate WireGuard, or virtual networks generally, from individuals to enterprises. We aim to create a collaborative and innovative ecosystem around Netmaker, and this is the first step.

Apache 2.0 License vs. SSPL

The Server Side Public License (SSPL) is “source available”, but is not “open source,” according to the Open Source Initiative.

One of the primary criticisms of the SSPL is that it places significant restrictions on how the software can be used, which is contrary to the “freedom-to-use-any-purpose” principle of open source licensing. 

By contrast, the Apache License 2.0 is a permissive open-source license that allows for free use, modification, and distribution of the software, even in proprietary projects. It's one of the most popular open-source licenses and is approved by the OSI.

So why did Netmaker use the SSPL to begin with? In short, we felt it would be better to start with a restrictive license, and become more permissive over time, as opposed to the alternative. By starting with SSPL, we had a degree of protection while in the early stages of development, which allowed us to experiment heavily and move fast with a small development team (over 60 releases in under 3 years!).

Early this year, we started the process by putting our client-side code (the netclient) onto the Apache-2.0 license. The result was more trust, more collaboration, and more innovation. This gave us the confidence to make our server-side code open source as well. 

Benefits of the Apache 2.0 License for Netmaker and the Community

The Apache License 2.0 allows anyone to use, modify, and distribute Netmaker’s core code freely. This means you can tailor Netmaker to suit your specific needs, whether you're a business, a developer, or an academic researcher.

By adopting a more permissive license, we're tearing down barriers to entry. More people can now adopt, use, and contribute to Netmaker, thereby enriching the platform with diverse skill sets and perspectives. This also simplifies the decision-making for enterprises. Businesses can now more easily integrate Netmaker into their existing systems without worrying about licensing restrictions.

Netmaker is a flexible, general use network automation platform, which can power secure connectivity across clouds, data centers, offices, IoT, and more. With this switch, we’re enabling a new ecosystem of applications that use Netmaker as a base platform.

Netmaker provides the ground floor for network automation, on top of which our users are already making powerful systems to automate device management, Kubernetes clusters, private clouds, and more.

The Road Ahead

Keeping with the philosophy of Netmaker as a “base platform” for other applications, we are building our own applications that extend Netmaker into new spaces.

Last week, Netmaker released a remote access client meant for end user devices, and we have more exciting applications just on the horizon.

Moving forward, we also aim to bring the core Netmaker project into more open source communities, where it can be leveraged to its full potential.

The road ahead looks exciting as we continue to extend the Netmaker platform into spaces like IoT and Kubernetes.

Thank You

We want to extend a massive thank you to everyone who's supported us so far. Whether you're a Netmaker user, a WireGuard fan, or someone passionate about open source projects, we're excited to embark on this new journey with you.

To get involved, check out our repository on GitHub. We welcome contributions of all kinds, from code to documentation and beyond.

Thank you for being a part of this incredible journey. We're just getting started, and we can't wait for you to see where we go from here.

Best regards,

The Netmaker Team


Would you like to contribute or have questions about our move to open source? Feel free to reach out to us.


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