funding rsyslog development

To be honest, funding the rsyslog project is not easy these days. It never was, but has seen an extra hit by the current economic crisis. Rsyslog, in its initial phase, has been sponsored exclusively by Adiscon as part of its open source involvement. In 2007, we added rsyslog professional services with things like support contracts or custom development. While some customers used these services, Adiscon was still required to sponsor the project and is so until now. Unfortunately, professional services are not doing extremely well (to phrase it politely) and the global crisis is having a hit on Adiscon’s customers. As a consequence, I have been more involved with paid work during the past weeks and could not work as much on rsyslog as I had liked to. The shift in Linux logging that probably will be brought by journald (read blog posting) doesn’t strengthen my position inside Adiscon either and works as an accelerator for change…

We have been discussing for quite some while how to improve this situation. While I don’t like the idea, we probably need to think about a dual licensing approach for rsyslog. Please keep reading, you can be upset when I have made the rest of my argument ;-). First of all, I really don’t like dual-licensing. In fact, syslog-ng’s dual licensing approach was one reason that made me start working on rsyslog (blog post). I also know that rsyslog’s simple GPL license was one of the major “buying points” that made rsyslog become the default syslogd on Fedora and later many other distributions. In order to permit reuse of rsyslog technology in some other tools, in 2008 we created a licensing model that puts the so-called runtime – a large part of rsyslog – under LGPL (see “licensing rsyslog” and a previous blog post outlining the change). Syslog-ng later cloned this licensing model, but it seems like they put a couple of more things under LGPL than we did (so there seem to be rather weak “product driver” with most of the “real meat” being under LGPL – in rsyslog larger parts are GPL, only). There is an interesting article on that tells about this development, and does so from a syslog-ng point of view. The most interesting fact I got from this article was that syslog-ng faced quite the same problems we have with rsyslog — and could not solve them without a commercial fork. Bare other options, it looks like this is a path that rsyslog needs to go, too. If so, of course this needs to be done as careful as possible.

After dual-licensing finally surfaced as something hard to avoid yesterday evening, I have done git log review today. I have to admit it was a bit scary: we have had some excellent and larger code contributions by Fedora folks in rsyslog’s infancy (and continuous support since them), we have had some larger chunks of code in form of modules contributed and there is Michael Biebl, who not only creates great Debian packages but always helps with autotools and smoothing some edges. Finally, we have a couple of folks who sent in very specific patches. But I have to admit that the very vast majority of code was written by myself ;) As of today, we have 2819 git commits. Out of them 2676 were made by me (and another 50 or so by other Adiscon folks). These number need to be taken with a grain of salt: rsyslog was initially kept in a CVS archive, and all contributions at that time were logged with my user account. The early Fedora patches were in that timeframe. That have been around 20 or so. Also, my commit count is a bit higher due to automatic merges. On the other hand, the difference in code lines is probably even a bit higher than the difference in commit count. I have not done any in-depth analysis, bu an educated guess is that more than 98% of code lines were written by me (after all, I have worked a couple of years on this project…).

I am now tasked with actually looking at the code. I will try to differentiate addon user contributions (like omoracle) from core files. This is useful anyway, because it makes clearer to users what is directly supported by the project and what not. Then, I will probably look into contributions and see which code remains at which locations. After that is know, I need to have another set of talks with my peers at Adiscon (and probably the top contributors) and see where we can head from here.

This is, honestly, how the state of affairs in regard to the rsyslog project currently is. Most probably we need to move to some commercial licensing model. I know this is not ideal. I know many of you will not really like it. On the other hand, it is plain fact that many for-profit organizations greatly benefit from rsyslog without ever contributing anything. While they can continue to do so, it is probably a good idea to help them find an offering that funds the project. As final remark for today, let me introduce you to a blog post that IMHO very nicely describes the problems, and needs, around dual licensing. I am not affiliated with the author, do not even know him.

I hope that the ideas described here will enable us to keep pushing forward with rsyslog technology, something I would really like to do!