Nexenta Community Edition license changes

It’s been noted over on the forums that there was a change in the Nexenta EULA that now prevents commercial usage of Nexenta Community Edition.  Forum thread can be found here :

I found this discouraging, as the ability to use Nexenta Community Edition in our production environment was the reason that we selected Nexenta.  All of our original testing was done with OpenSolaris, and it actually performed better than Nexenta.  We went with Nexenta Community Edition because of the ease of use and the ability to upgrade to Enterprise Edition and purchase support if we needed it.  Removing the option for small businesses to use Nexenta Community Edition in production is not something that I expected to see from Nexenta.  I wondered why this happened.

I took some time to think about this and try to figure out why Nexenta’s stance might have changed.  After browsing the forums, and seeing posts that say things like “I tried contacting Nexenta support” I stumbled upon the idea that support could be a big part of it.  This is a free version of Nexenta, allowing you to use up to 18TB of space, with NO SUPPORT.  People then come to the forums and complain that there’s no support, or they don’t get a response, or they got little help.

Support costs money.  There have been a number of people that are using Nexenta Community Edition that have been contacting support (at least one noted here –  Even if support doesn’t help you, you’re still tying up time on the phone with them, or forcing them to write an email response.  This costs money.  The EULA change isn’t going to change peoples behavior, but it does make it easier for Nexenta to send you to the forums for support, and use canned responses for Nexenta Community Edition questions.

The other possibility that I could see would be someone purchasing a single Nexenta Enterprise Edition Silver license, and then installed Nexenta Community Edition on 20 other devices, and try to get support on those devices also.  That’s pretty shady, but I can easily envision someone doing that.  Saying that Nexenta Community Edition isn’t to be run on production workloads allows Nexenta to punt questions if they come from a non-supported system much easier.  This is similar to the problem that Cisco has with their SmartNet support.  You buy 40 Cisco switches, put SmartNet on one of them, and voila, you’ve got support for every device that you own.  Cisco is starting to get this worked out, and I can see a lot of shops hurting in the next few years when they have to buy SmartNet on every device they own.

My suggestion to potential Nexenta Community Edition users – if you’re considering running Nexenta Community Edition in production, go for it.  From what I can tell, Nexenta is not planning to use the terms of the EULA to sue people for using Nexenta Community Edition in production.  Nexenta IS likely going to give you grief if you call in to support, and you’ll likely not get any help.  They’re a for-profit company, and I can’t fault them for wanting to remain in the black.  If it’s a mission critical workload and you absolutely need support, buy Nexenta Enterprise Silver at a minimum instead of using Nexenta Community Edition.  Nexenta Enterprise Silver is still cheaper than nearly any other support package you’ll find, and my experiences with support have been nothing less than stellar.

My suggestion to Nexenta – figure this out on the backend.  By telling small business that they cannot use Nexenta Community Edition in production, you have opened the door for FreeNAS, OpenFiler and Napp-It to step in and grab these startups that desperately want to use your product.  Your product is better than FreeNAS, OpenFiler and Napp-It, but FreeNAS, OpenFiler, and Napp-It don’t include draconian licensing limitations.  Figure out how to allow these small businesses to use Nexenta Community Edition and flourish, and when they’re ready to go big time, let ’em buy Nexenta Enterprise Silver/Gold/Platinum licensing and support rather than figuring out how to pay Napp-It or one of the others for their support.  If the EULA for Nexenta Community Edition had looked like this when we started using it, we would have thought long and hard about not using it or recommending it to other people.  I don’t want to do that, and I don’t want anyone reading this site to do that.  The Nexenta WebGUI is comfortable and I’ve gotten quite used to it, I’d hate to go back and have to create iSCSI targets from the command line.

At some point in time, somebody will sit down and write a good web based GUI that runs on OpenSolaris/OpenIndiana.  By originally allowing production usage of Nexenta Community Edition, Nexenta took away the desire to code that alternative web GUI.  After all, nobody wants to spend months coding something when Nexenta Community Edition existed for free, worked awesome, and allowed production usage.  Now that Nexenta Community Edition is not allowed for production usage, there will likely be renewed interest in developing a good open source web GUI.


Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 ZFS

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