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AWS Open Source Contributions Increase


The AWS portfolio breadth and overall TAM increase grew significantly as a result of AWS Outposts and the IoT Edge announcements (see AWS Edge IoT Device Test for Amazon FreeRTOS, Amazon SageMaker Neo, and AWS RoboMaker below) at re:Invent 2018. As a result, the number of AWS partnerships and the general cloud and the size of cloud ecosystems will grow rapidly.

The open source community is a major source of innovation for the IT industry. Wikibon posits that AWS customers and non-US governments will demand a higher level of confidence that AWS is working (and seen to be working) in partnership with the industry. A key part of the IT industry is the open source community. AWS has to be known as a significant innovator and contributor to open source projects.

AWS Open Source Projects

The following is a list of AWS products where AWS is contributing significantly.


AWS has released its own downstream distribution of OpenJDK called Amazon Corretto.  Amazon and AWS use OpenJDK extensively in their core services. Both have, or are in the process of, migrating to Corretto. Corretto will also become the default Java for the AWS Linux distribution used extensively on EC2.

OpenJDK is the free and open-source implementation of the Java Platform, Standard Edition. The implementation is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 with class path exception (CPE). It came to Oracle as part of the acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

On previous major version new releases of OpenJDK, Oracle provided no-charge updates to the previous version for a period of time (typically 12+ months) after it lost its primary status. This allows community time to manage and test the new version and ensure a clean cutover. This benefited the community in general, and was also a significant benefit to Amazon and AWS.

In January 2018, Oracle decided to dramatically shorten the support time between the introduction of a new version of OpenJDK and the withdrawal of free support for OpenJDK. This will be implemented starting after the January 2019 update release, and likely take effect with the next update release scheduled for April 2019. The impact on the community is clear and significant – there is not enough time to ensure a clean cutover to the new release. The only solution for continued support is to take Oracle JDK in 2019. The license charge for Oracle JDK is US$25/processor/per month, and US$2.50/user/month/desktop. A standard 50% discount will be available for most customers.

This outcome has been ameliorated by AWS with the announcement of Corretto. All changes in Corretto have been contributed upstream and AWS volunteered to lead the OpenJDK8u and 11up projects. AWS has offered to support Red Hat by dedicating engineers to the OpenJDK update projects. AWS is contributing patches and fixes to OpenJDK upstream. The source code for Corretto is available on GitHub. All OpenJDK related fixes will be contributed to upstream. All issues related to install scripts, etc., will be fixed in Corretto. AWS has announced its intention to maintain parity between Corretto and future OpenJDK releases. AWS should be applauded for a significant contribution to Java and the open source community.

Wikibon believes one trigger for the Corretto announcement is to avoid AWS and Amazon paying license fees to Oracle JDK. By stepping in late in the cycle, AWS and Red Hat have also contributed significantly to the millions in the OpenJDK community. The community would also point out the problem could have been avoided if all the parties had come together to discuss and resolve the issues earlier.

Firecracker (fast followers)

AWS Firecracker is a new virtualization technology that makes use of KVM. Lightweight micro-virtual machines (microVMs) can be deployed in non-virtualized environments in a fraction of a second.  It enables developers to use the inherent security of workload isolation given by traditional virtual machines together with the efficiency of containers. 

Firecracker is an active open source project. AWS is ready to review and accept pull requests, and will collaborate with contributors. Overall, this is an excellent project and significant contribution to development choice and security.

AWS IoT Edge Device Tester for FreeRTOS

FreeRTOS is an open source real-time operating system, designed for micro-controllers in Edge devices. Amazon FreeRTOS is an extension of the FreeRTOS kernel and software library. This extension enables connection to AWS cloud services like AWS IoT Core or to more powerful edge devices running AWS IoT Greengrass. This project provides the potential for much cleaner and more secure environments for IoT Edge deployments.

Amazon SageMaker Neo 

Wikibon holds the view that AI inference code is moving inexorably to the Edge, very close to where the data is created. Amazon SageMaker Neo is an open source extension to Amazon SageMaker. It allows the AI model developed in SageMaker to be compiled and deployed on many Edge devices with many chip architectures (Arm chips are particularly relevant at the Edge).

Over 90% of AI resources are expended in deployment.  This is a major contribution by AWS to provide greater choice of device and architecture for Edge processing, and enable code to be deployed very close to data creation.

AWS Open Source Robomaker

AWS RoboMaker is an extension to an open-source robotics software framework, Robot Operating System (ROS). It enables connectivity to the AWS cloud services.

Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) could be seen by AWS as a competitive threat. AWS has done well to join CNCF and contribute to the marketing and the definition of open source projects. AWS customers want to see solid integration with AWS services for projects of increasing importance to enterprises, such as Istio and Kubernetes.

AWS support for Kubernetes is available with Amazon EKS, which is certified Kubernetes conformant. This enables integration with existing tooling and plugins from partners and the Kubernetes community, and enables easier deployment, management, and scaling for containerized applications using Kubernetes on AWS.


AWS is moving its internal open source culture from deploy and improve (fork) towards a culture of contribution. The management structure is in place, and the Open Source projects above show some real progress in cultural shift. Particularly important are the Edge contributions (FreeRTOS, Neo, RoboMaker) and joining the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). However, the list should be longer and stronger!

Open source is now of critical importance to user communities and to the industry in general, and a major source of innovation to all in the industry. Wikibon believes the spat over OpenJDK (see above) could have been avoided. Wikibon recommends that AWS participate aggressively in contributing earlier to open source projects, and accelerate the process by rewarding change in internal culture. AWS needs to emerge as a leader in the open source community, befitting the strong financial growth of AWS. AWS will earn additional growth from the excellent AWS Outposts announcement, the distributed IoT services announcements, and the continuing strong AI announcements. AWS customers and international government bodies expect AWS to be a strong partner, innovator, and contributor to the open source community. They also expect industry leaders to work together to resolve issues proactively.

Being seen to take an active and innovative part in the open source community is very important to many enterprise customers.

Action Item

CIOs and senior executives should clearly identify to AWS the open source projects critical to them. Enterprise management should also ensure that AWS has the contributors and intent to contribute to these projects.


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