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Zeebe License Overview and FAQ

Licensing for Software and Documentation

Zeebe Broker (incl. Gateway)

APIs and Protocols

Clients

Other licenses (Optimize, Operate, Tasklist, Identity, Modeler, Documentation, …)

Licensing Policy

Our goal in selecting the Zeebe Community License for the Zeebe server (broker and gateway) is to restrict public managed services that offer the core value proposition of Zeebe (visually define and execute processes based on BPMN) openly to third parties. This could undermine Camunda’s own offerings in a way that threatens the viability of a source-available and open development model. Our ability to further invest in Zeebe and to share it with the users and the community depends on our ability to offer it as a cloud service ourselves. 

That’s why the Zeebe Community License does not allow managed services that provide end-users the possibility to modify process models or deploy their own ones. Other than that, the Zeebe Community License does not make further restrictions. That means if your use case does not fall under the above-mentioned exception, the license can be considered comparable to the Apache License 2.0.

To simplify the adoption of Zeebe, clients are made available under Apache License 2.0.

See the FAQ below and the following blog post for more details on this rationale.

If this licensing does not satisfy your business needs, commercial licenses are available from Camunda. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Am I allowed to use Zeebe in a commercial product?

Yes, as long as you comply with the restrictions not to provide managed services that allow its end-users to modify process models or deploy new ones! See the examples below for more information.

Why did Camunda come up with its own license instead of using an existing one?

While the challenge around cloud offerings is not unique to Zeebe (several projects and companies like Elasticsearch, MongoDB, Confluent, CockroachDB, MariaDB, and others have taken similar initiative), there is currently no generally accepted license that solves this problem. Camunda would strongly consider moving to such a “standard” license, should it emerge.

Is Zeebe Open Source?

The Zeebe Community License doesn’t align completely with the OSI’s definition of Open Source. From a practical perspective, their definition is what’s generally understood by developers and users of open-source software. So we’re not referring to Zeebe as open source.

The term “source available” is emerging as a more accurate description for projects like Zeebe.

What does the Zeebe Community License mean by “Providing a Commercial Process Automation Service”?

A commercial Process Automation Service means offering a service using Zeebe, in the cloud, to your commercial advantage.

In the license text, this is restricted to situations where Zeebe is used to provide the ability to deploy and execute “custom processes” (the executable process model itself is seen as a “programmatic service” in terms of the license). 

This means whenever you provide a service, and your customers can modify existing process models or deploy custom ones themselves, it is not permitted by the license. It is only allowed if the end-user can not modify existing or create their own process models themselves. The latter typically means that end-users only select between pre-built process models or do not even recognize they are using an orchestration engine or BPMN under the hood. 

This point caused some confusion in the past and even led to some inconsistencies in our own FAQ, for which we apologize. We added clarification with a modified FAQ version as of September 26 2022.

Example Use Cases

Using examples, we want to help you interpret the exact wording of the Zeebe Community License 1.1 according to your use cases.  

Example 1: Internal Use

Helpware is a software consulting firm. A client hires Helpware to build an internal Zeebe-as-a-service platform on the client’s behalf. This platform will be deployed to a hardware environment managed by the client (either on-premises or in the Cloud–it does not make a difference for this example).

The client’s employees will be able to create and deploy “Custom Workflows,” meaning that both workflow definitions and the services being orchestrated can be freely defined by the client.

This use case is allowed under the Zeebe Community License. Because Helpware was hired as a “Contractor” by their client to build an internal service available to their client’s employees only, the platform is not considered to be a “Commercial Workflow Service.”

The related language of the license is: A “Commercial Process Automation Service” is a service intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation for the provider of the service enabling third parties (other than the provider’s employees or Contractors) to deploy and execute Custom Processes or to access the Software via its APIs.

Example 2: The SaaS Application Provider

DigiBank is a software company that provides a SaaS solution for the finance sector. DigiBank’s customers can select between various pre-defined BPMN processes to be used in their own organization. Those process models are used to describe the process but also during monitoring and operations. They are executed by the Zeebe engine. However, DigiBank’s customers cannot adjust the process itself, just customize certain pre-defined parameters like the amount from which an order must be approved by a senior manager. 

This use case is allowed under the Zeebe Community License because DigiBank’s customers can not define custom workflows themselves.

The related language of the license is: “Custom Processes” means process descriptions contained in BPMN or similar configuration files, that specify the logic for executing programmatic services, such that third parties can define these programmatic services freely (as opposed to selecting them from a restricted set of pre-defined programmatic services made available by the provider of the Commercial Process Automation Service).

Example 3: The SaaS Application Provider employing process consultants

Let’s extend example 2 and assume DigiBank has its own business consultants who can modify the BPMN process models to tailor DigiBank’s behavior to customers. Some of those consultants are working as independent contractors for DigiBank.

This use case is allowed because DigiBank’s customers can not define custom workflows themselves, only DigiBank’s employees or contractors can do this.

The related language of the license is: A “Commercial Process Automation Service” is a service intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation for the provider of the service enabling third parties (other than the provider’s employees or Contractors) to deploy and execute Custom Processes or to access the Software via its APIs” […] Custom Processes” means process descriptions contained in BPMN or similar configuration files, that specify the logic for executing programmatic services, such that third parties can define these programmatic services freely (as opposed to selecting them from a restricted set of pre-defined programmatic services made available by the provider of the Commercial Process Automation Service).”

Example 4: The SaaS Application Provider allowing custom processes

Autoflow is a software company that provides a SaaS solution for the automotive sector. Autoflow’s customers use a custom BPMN modeling tool to define customized orchestration workflows that are executed by the Zeebe engine.

This use case is not allowed under the Zeebe Community License because Autoflow’s customers can define custom workflows themselves, even if they can only orchestrate a limited set of services defined and maintained by Autoflow.

The related language of the license is: “Custom Processes” means process descriptions contained in BPMN or similar configuration files, that specify the logic for executing programmatic services, such that third parties can define these programmatic services freely (as opposed to selecting them from a restricted set of pre-defined programmatic services made available by the provider of the Commercial Process Automation Service).

Example 5: The General-Purpose SaaS Provider

GiantCloud is a software company that provides a SaaS platform. GiantCloud customers can freely define workflows in GiantCloud’s brand new workflow definition DSL, which is translated to BPMN 2.0 before being executed by Zeebe.

GiantCloud customers can freely define the services being orchestrated by the GiantCloud workflow platform.

In other words, GiantCloud’s SaaS product is “Zeebe-as-a-service.”

This use case is not allowed because GiantCloud is offering a “Commercial Workflow Service” that its customers use to create and execute “Custom Workflows.”The related language of the license is: “Custom Processes” means process descriptions contained in BPMN or similar configuration files, that specify the logic for executing programmatic services, such that third parties can define these programmatic services freely (as opposed to selecting them from a restricted set of pre-defined programmatic services made available by the provider of the Commercial Process Automation Service).