AWS hits back at open-source software critics

Claims that AWS is strip-mining open-source software is "silly and off-base", says exec.

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) has rejected criticism that the company 'strip mines' open-source software projects for their innovations. 

AWS wasn't happy with how it was portrayed in a recent New York Times article about open-source database makers, which criticised the cloud giant for integrating open-source software pioneered by others into its offerings.

But rather than copying software and profiting from the others' labor, the world's top cloud-computing company is just giving customers what they want, according to Andi Gutmans, vice president of AWS analytics and ElastiCache. 

"AWS customers have repeatedly asked AWS to build managed services around open source. As we shared with the author, the argument that AWS is "strip-mining" open source is silly and off-base," he wrote.

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"The story is largely talking about open source software projects and companies who've tried to build businesses around commercializing that open-source software. These open-source projects enable any company to utilize this software on-premises or in the cloud, and build services around it. AWS customers have repeatedly asked AWS to build managed services around open source," Gutmans said.

He noted that AWS contributes to open-source projects such as Linux, Java, Kubernetes, Xen, KVM, Chromium, Robot Operating System, Apache Lucene, Redis, s2n, FreeRTOS and Elasticsearch.

"A number of maintainers of open-source projects build commercial companies around the open-source project. A small set of outliers see it as a zero-sum game and want to be the only ones able to freely monetize managed services around these open-source projects," he added.

According to the New York Times report, several rivals have discussed bringing antitrust complaints against AWS. Bloomberg reported this month that the Federal Trade Commission has asked software companies about AWS

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told the NYT that "people are afraid that Amazon's ambitions are endless". Cloudflare operates a large content distribution network, which competes with a subsection of AWS.

Cloud is a contentious big business these days. Top Google execs reportedly considered ditching the public-cloud business last year but now wants to leapfrog Google and AWS by 2023. AWS last week filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon over the world's largest cloud-computing contract, an up-to $10 billion infrastructure and platform deal that was awarded to Microsoft and its Azure business. AWS claims the outcome was swayed by US president Donald Trump's anger towards Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos.  

But it's this cloud and platform business from AWS, IBM and others that's recently caused a shift in licensing terms from firms that historically provided open-source database technology, including Elastic, MongoDB, and Redis. 

MongoDB, for example, last year relicensed its tech under a new Server Side Public License (SSPL), which caused Linux distribution vendor Red Hat to reject it in RHEL. MongoDB's licensing shift supported its own Atlas managed cloud service. 

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Before that Redis Labs argued that cloud providers had "violated the ethos" of open source by repackaging them into competitive, proprietary service offerings." 

Elastic, the Dutch-based maker of Elasticsearch, has also restricted what cloud companies can do with its technology and in September sued Amazon in the US over a trademark violation for using the name Elasticsearch in their products.