KNIME Open Source Story


KNIME Open Source and Licensed Software

In early 2004 at the University of Konstanz, a team of developers from a Silicon Valley software company specializing in pharmaceutical applications started working on a new open source platform as a collaboration and research tool. Because it was clear from day one that this product would have to process and integrate huge amounts of diverse data, the developers adhered to rigorous software engineering standards to create a robust, modular, and highly scalable platform encompassing various data loading, transformation, analysis and visual exploration models. When the first version of KNIME was released in 2006, several pharmaceutical companies began using it and, soon thereafter, software vendors started building KNIME-based tools.

Today, KNIME users can be found in large-scale enterprises across a wide range of industries including life sciences, financial services, publishers, Retailers and E-tailers, manufacturing consulting firms, government and research – in over 50 countries.


KNIME: a Solid, Robust, Open Source Platform

A true open source development, KNIME is written in Java and based on Eclipse, the open source multi-language software development environment comprising an integrated development environment (IDE) and an extensible plug-in system.

KNIME AG, the parent company of KNIME, firmly believes in open source and the power of the community. Our philosophy is to maintain and develop an open source platform containing all functionality that any individual might require and to continue delivering extended functionality through our own work and that of the community. Unlike other open source products, KNIME Analytics Platform is not a cut-down version and there are no artificial limitations, such as machine processing size or numbers of data rows: If you have enough hard disk and memory, you can run projects with hundreds of millions of rows, as many KNIME users currently do.

KNIME Analytics Platform is released under an Open Source GPLv3 license with an exception that allows others to use the well-defined node API to add proprietary extensions. This also permits commercial software vendors to add wrappers so that their tools can be executed from within KNIME. That makes KNIME available to everyone. Period.


But KNIME AG also licenses Commercial Software. What is the Difference?

KNIME AG extends the open source KNIME Analytics Platform with licensed commercial software extensions for increasing productivity and enabling collaboration.   You are never required to license these extensions — everything can be handled by KNIME Analytics Platform. However many individuals and organizations can leverage their KNIME usage even further by using these licensed extensions.

For KNIME Commercial Extensions, a yearly license fee is collected.   Part of that fee goes towards continuing development of the open source work.  We feel this arrangement keeps us honest: We need to keep delivering you software that brings you value so that you provide us with the income we depend on. We are a software company, not a consultancy, and over 90% of our revenue comes from software licenses. We intend to keep it that way.

That is why our partner network is so important. From time to time organizations also require consultancy services, and our qualified partner network ensures that KNIME resources are available — another aspect of “open source community” that is important to us.

We do make one consultancy exception: If a customer urgently requires a KNIME feature or functionality that is not currently on our priority list, we allow companies to hire us to get that functionality into the product as soon as possible. Generally, we then make this new functionality available on the open source platform so that ALL organizations can take advantage of it.

KNIME Open Source License

Starting with Version 2.1, KNIME is released under the GNU General Public License, Version 3 (including certain additional permissions according to Sec. 7 of the GPL Ver. 3).

The detailed open source license is available here!

A summary of the license follows, but please note that only the actual terms and conditions of the GNU General Public License, Version 3, linked to above, govern your rights to use KNIME Analytics Platform. This summary is provided for your convenience and you should consult your own lawyers to confirm this interpretation.

KNIME Open Source License in a Nutshell:

You can download KNIME and use it (run it) without any restrictions (but be aware that THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM and that KNIME AG IS NOT LIABLE). You may copy and distribute KNIME unmodified, without restrictions. If you want to change KNIME, you should read the details of the license. If you want to develop new nodes for KNIME, and you do this the standard way (by extending the classes NodeModel, NodeDialog, and/or NodeView), you can release those nodes under any license you may choose. (The additional permissions according to Sec. 7 of the GPL clarify that these nodes are not derivative work of KNIME and are not infected by the GPL).

KNIME is a bundle containing Eclipse Software licensed under the Eclipse Public License (EPL) and separate KNIME plug-ins licensed under the General Public License (GPL), Version 3 (including certain additional permissions according to Sec. 7 of the GPL). Please see the license notices in the source files and the LICENSE files in the respective folders for more detailed information on the applicable license terms.