Today, Redis Labs announces that it raised $60 million in a Series E round. Francisco Partners (“FP”), a global late-stage technology investment firm, led the round, taking a position in Redis Labs for the first time. Prior investors—including Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing, Bain Capital Ventures, Viola Ventures, and Dell Technologies Capital—participated in the funding round.
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As part of the transaction, Francisco Partners’ chief investment officer David Golob will take a seat on the company’s board of directors and FP operating partner Eran Gorev will join as a board observer, according to a statement from the company.
Including this round, Redis Labs has raised $146.6 million in venture funding. The company did not disclose its new valuation. Redis Labs says it will use its new funding to accelerate business expansion globally and to “invest further in the enthusiastic Redis community.”
What Is Redis?
Redis Labs is the company behind Redis Enterprise and Redis, an open-source in-memory data structure store, which can be implemented as a database, cache, or message brokerage. According to industry tracking site DB-Engines, Redis is the seventh-most-popular database system overall, and the most popular key-value store in production use today. Redis has been deployed in nearly 1.38 billion Docker containers at the time of writing, according to its website.
Redis stores data in memory, which has the benefit of being terrifically fast but somewhat expensive to run at scale. Almost all computing hardware components (from CPUs to hard drives to solid-state storage) have gotten cheaper over the years, but RAM prices can be volatile and remain high relative to other parts.
In conjunction with a trend of bigger companies turning to managed services instead of in-house development using open source software infrastructure, the high memory requirements of Redis drove its adoption through cloud computing platforms, which offer their own versions of Redis’s key-value store as another commoditized computing service.
To an extent, this has been good for the broad adoption of open source Redis, but perhaps less good for Redis Labs itself. Financially, much of the benefit redounded to the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and other cloud computing platforms offering Redis as a software service running on platform-managed hardware. Accordingly, Redis Labs has attempted to capture more value from its software, all while trying to reconcile business needs with its roots in community-driven software.
According to a licencing page on the Redis Labs website, the core Redis database software is available via open source license (BSD). Redis Enterprise, an optimized, more full-featured database engine, is closed-source and available via commercial license through Redis Labs. There is a space in between the two offerings though, which is filled with software modules that enhance or extend the functionality of open-source Redis. Some of these modules are produced by the Redis development community, while others are produced by Redis Labs itself.
In a move that ruffled feathers of some in the open source software community back in August 2018, Redis Labs announced it would move some of the modules it developed in-house off the open source AGPL license to an Apache v2.0 license modified with a Commons Clause, which technically isn’t open source, but rather “source available.”
Proponents of the Commons Clause says it prevents massive cloud computing platforms from simply re-selling the Commons Clause-protected software as a service. Critics say it’s a way for private, for-profit companies to financially benefit from community-developed software. Licencing battles are nothing new in open source software development and the Commons Clause is one of its new fronts.1
In the funding announcement Redis Labs shared with Crunchbase News, the company says its commercial products feature “a variety of data modeling techniques, such as Streams, Graph, Document and Machine Learning, with a real-time search engine.” The modules which facilitate some of those value-added services—RediSearch, RedisGraph, ReJSON, Redis-ML, and ReBloom—were the ones Redis Labs released under the new license.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
In Stratechery, technology industry analyst Ben Thompson discussed the challenges Redis Labs and MongoDB (another flexible database provider) face in building sustainable commercial business on top of open source. It’s decent reference material on the economic and legal forces affecting the market.↩
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