Valkey history

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Valkey is a fork of the open-source Redis (REmote DIctionary Server) database created in 2009 by the Italian hacker Salvatore “antirez” Sanfilippo. He announced it on Hacker News on Feb 25, 2009. GitHub and Instagram were among the early adopters.

Early works of Salvatore Sanfilippo

At the time, Salvatore “antirez” was already known for inventing the Idle scan port scanning technique, the Hping TCP/IP packet generator and analyzer, the Jim TCL interpreter and the LLOOGG real-time log analyzer. To improve it, he created an in-memory database called called LLOOGG Memory DB, which was a proof-of-concept of what later became Redis and Valkey.

Early contributions and sponsorships

During 2009, Engine Yard contributed blocking POP (BLPOP) and part of the Virtual Memory implementation (later deleted), Hitmeister contributed part of the Cluster implementation and Citrusbyte contributed part of Virtual Memory implementation. In 2010, Slicehost (acquired by Rackspace) provided Virtual Machines for testing in a virtualized environment and Linode provided virtual machines for testing in a virtualized environment. Also thanks to the following people or organizations that donated to the Project: Emil Vladev, Brad Jasper and Mrkris. The Shuttleworth Foundation donated 5000 USD to the project in form of a flash grant.

Pieter Noordhuis and Matt Stancliff provided a significant amount of code and ideas to the core and client libraries.

The time with VMware

In March, 2010, Sanfilippo was hired by VMware to work on Redis and Redis Tools. In his blog post VMware: the new Redis home, he writes:

Not only Redis will remain a totally open source project, but Redis Tools will be open sourced also (and this was an idea I got from VMware itself!).

This is why I'm truly excited about joining VMware: together we'll build a better, free Redis, bringing Redis development to another level.

VMware, and later Pivotal (a VMware spin-off), provided a 24 GB RAM workstation for Salvatore to run the Redis CI test and other long running tests. Later, Salvatore equipped the server with an SSD drive in order to test in the same hardware with rotating and flash drives. VMware sponsored the project until May 2013, with the work of Salvatore Sanfilippo and Pieter Noordhuis. From May 2013 to June 2015, Salvatore's work was sponsored by Pivotal.

The Redis Labs era

In 2011, a company called Garantia Data was founded and started providing database services based on Redis. In 2013, Garantia Data was changing its name to RedisDB, but decided to withdraw the change after complaints by Sanfilippo:

If this is true, it is not a good thing as the current informal rule was: use "Redis" in company names that are selling Redis services, but in a way that makes it distinguishable from Redis as a project. There are many examples like OpenRedis, RedisToGo, and so forth. However "RedisDB" is different as it is more like "We are Redis", (I even own the "" domain name since 2009! you can WHOIS it to check). So in my opinion calling the company "RedisDB" is wrong, especially since I and Garantia Data from time to time have friendly conversations as we are both part of the "Redis ecosystem", but I did not received any prior question about this issue.

The following year, 2014, Garantia Data changed its name to Redis Labs.

In 2015, Salvatore left Pivotal for Redis Labs. He writes in his blog post Thanks Pivotal, Hello Redis Labs:

Redis Labs was willing to continue what VMware and Pivotal started. I'll be able to work as I do currently, spending all my time in the open source side of the project, while Redis Labs continues to provide Redis users with an hassles-free Redis experience of managed instances and products.

In 2018, Redis Labs changed the license of some of its modules from AGPL to a source-available license. The license prevents competing cloud providers from offering these modules to customers and does therefore not fulfill the criteria for an open source license.

This was interpreted by some as if Redis is no longer open source. Sanfilippo clarified on his blog Redis will remain BSD licensed.

Yiftach Shoolman, CTO and co-founder of Redis Labs, also clarified in in the company's blog that Redis' License is BSD and will remain BSD. He repeated this promise in a comment on Hacker News, writing “let me assure you that Redis remains and always will remain, open source, BSD license”.

In 2020, Salvatore Sanfilippo announced in his blog post The end of the Redis adventure that he was stepping back as the Redis maintainer, handing over the maintenance to Yossi Gottlieb and Oran Agra at Redis Labs. The two created a “core team” to maintain the project and invited Itamar Haber from Redis Labs, Zhao Zhao from Alibaba and Madelyn Olson from Amazon. The members were selected “based on demonstrated, long-term personal involvement and contributions”. This was described in the projects Governance page which was the inspiration for the current Valkey governance.

In 2021, the Redis Labs changed its name to Redis Ltd. or just Redis. In this article, we're using the name Redis Ltd. when referring to the company to avoid confusion. By this time, Redis Ltd. had acquired the trademark rights to the name Redis and the logo from Sanfilippo.

The end of open source Redis

In 2024, Redis Ltd. changed the license of Redis from the open source BSD license to dual source-available licenses. This was announced in a blog post Redis Adopts Dual Source-Available Licensing and the license change was committed to the repository the same day.

Neither of the licenses, Redis Source Available License (RSALv2) nor the Server Side Public License (SSPLv1), are open source licenses, as neither meet the criteria of an open source license.

RSALv2 forbids the use of the software in database products, to prevent their competitors from providing database products and services. Such a restriction is not in line with The Open Source Definition, criterion #6 “The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor” by the Open Source Initiative, nor “the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0)” in the Free Software Foundation's definition of Free Software. The SSPL has similar restrictions, explained in the SSPL article on Wikipedia.

The birth of Valkey

Many contributors, including companies providing hosted Redis-derived or Redis-compatible database services, just like Redis Ltd. does, have been using and contributing to Redis just as long as Redis Ltd. has existed. It was therefore and easy decision for many of them to continue the open source development as usual under the BSD license.

As Redis Ltd. owns the trademark rights to the name Redis, the open source project needed to continue under a different name. A group of six active contributors (one from each of Alibaba, Amazon, Ericsson, Google, Huawei and Tencent) with the support from several other companies launched Valkey as a Linux Foundation project. It was announced in a press release only eight days after Redis' license change. Three weeks later, a second press release announced seven more companies joining and the first release, Valkey 7.2.5.