WSJ D.Live/screen capture
- On Tuesday at the Open Source Leadership Summit, Amazon Web Services’ Andi Gutmans explained why Amazon Web Services decided to make Open Distro for Elasticsearch, its version of the popular Elasticsearch project, available as open source.
- Gutmans called out some open source software-based companies for adding restrictions and changing the licensing to their free software.
- However, those companies only did so response to tech giants like AWS repackaging and selling open source software created they created.
- AWS previously had a reputation for giving little back to the open source community, but some experts say this new stance on open source could be a sign of a turnaround.
Amazon Web Services is working hard to increase its street cred with the world of open source software — even as it comes under fire for a move that some see as an unfair strike at a smaller company.
In a talk at the Open Source Leadership Summit on Tuesday, Andi Gutmans, a general manager with Amazon Web Services, shed some light on how the company approaches open source, and why it’s chosen to make moves that some see as unduly aggressive.
Specifically, Gutmans said that Amazon isn’t a big fan of the moves made by companies including MongoDB, Confluent, and Redis Labs to put more restrictive licenses on their open source code. Those companies have said the moves come as a way to prevent major cloud providers, including Amazon, from reselling their software at a profit.
In Amazon’s estimation, says Gutmans, this goes against a core principle of open source, which is that you can use the code however you want, even if it means using it for commercial purposes. Modifying the license to change it is tantamount to breaking a promise to customers, he says.
"From our perspective, open source should be open source, and proprietary software should be proprietary," Gutmans said onstage. "There’s a promise to the end customer that they can use open source however they want. If you do open source, you do open source. If you do proprietary, you do proprietary. There’s nothing wrong with proprietary software."
Amazon is under a microscope
Gutmans was also at the summit to discuss Open Distro for Elasticsearch, a new open source project announced this week by Amazon Web Services, in conjunction with Netflix and Expedia.
It’s a version of the popular Elasticsearch open source search software, originally created by a company called Elastic, but shepherded instead by Amazon itself. Gutmans, who’s responsible for Amazon’s Elasticsearch products, says that it wants Open Distro to attract a community of its own.
"Our goal is to truly build a meritocracy here where it’s not just Amazon but also others who are contributing to this project," Gutmans said.
He said that AWS chose to make its own version of Elasticsearch because developers have been adding proprietary code to the main project. Furthermore, he said, Amazon felt that innovation in Elasticsearch had been faltering, making the company feel like it had to take matters into its own hands. However, he said, it’s not Amazon’s project alone to steer.
"This is true open source from our perspective. This is not Amazon open source. This is community open source," Gutmans said. "We saw innovation slow down on the open source side….Our goal is to continue innovating on open source and give that code back to the community and make sure people who are interested."
It should be noted, here, that Elastic feels differently, as its CEO wrote a blog post taking Amazon to task for "hijacking" and "abusing" its brand with this product, and accused it of using that same proprietary code in question to build Open Distro.
There’s a general belief in the tech industry that Amazon doesn’t commit as much back to open source software as its peers — A data analysis by Google developer advocate Felipe Hoffa even shows that AWS lags behind Microsoft, Google and even Red Hat, in contributing to open source projects, although that started changing in 2018.
Gutmans said that Amazon cares about open source communities and keeping them healthy because it’s ultimately good for AWS customers if their open source software stays updated and current over the long haul. If it sees signs that an open source project might be letting customers down, that’s when it might step in as it did with Open Distro, says Gutmans.
"We’re a very customer obsessed company," Gutmans said onstage. "We don’t look at our competition, we don’t think about what’s the coolest, nicest technology, and we don’t think about our short term results. Our goal is to build relationships with customers that outlast any of us as individuals. That’s also how we think about open source."
- Amazon is partnering with Netflix and Expedia as it fires back at the startups that accuse it of unfairly profiting from their open source code
- A CEO is calling out Amazon Web Services for encroaching on his company’s turf — and some experts are supporting Amazon
- Open source database company MongoDB is giving up on an important battle in its fight against the major cloud computing providers