Amazon’s open source aspirations and actions

I stayed up last night to watch Amazon’s Tuesday night keynote for AWS re:Invent. Lemme tell you, I am not at all sad to be missing the crowds at re:Invent, and kudos to Amazon for its high-quality production values for the keynotes.

One of the things that really interested me, but wasn’t deeply explored, was the mention of Amazon’s home-grown KVM hypervisor and its Nitro setup, where it offloads networking, management, and storage to separate hardware and gives instances all the resources on the machine. (This is going by Peter DeSantis’ description and my following along with the keynote past midnight, so…)

Later in the keynote session when they brought Netflix on, they made some noises about open source and talked about their TLS implementation s2n. Haven’t dove deeply into s2n, but it sounds like they’re doing the right thing with this project, and a strong encryption alternative that has deep-pocket backing is not a bad thing at all.

But what struck me is the dichotomy of talking about open source and its importance for s2n, but glossing over completely their modifications or plans for KVM as a project. There’s a huge KVM community and I’m sure that they’d love to have Amazon participating actively. As far as I know, though, this isn’t happening.

Amazon has made moves to start an open source office and is doing more work in open source, but there’s a huge deficit between what Amazon builds off of open source and what it contributes back. If the company is serious about open source, it has an opportunity to make an enormous impact. I just hope the plan isn’t to limit its contributions to fringe or non-crucial projects and keep vital projects like Nitro/KVM behind closed doors away from the rest of the industry.

First Impressions at AWS re:Invent

Last year I attended AWS re:Invent, kinda, sorta. We were in Las Vegas to put on the first Apache CloudStack conference and most of my time and brainpower were consumed with last-minute planning for that event. I did spend time in the developer area, on exhibit floor, and some of the after-parties – but it wasn’t a usual conference for me.

This year, I’m actually not consumed with pre-conference planning (though the CloudStack Collaboration Conference is happening next week in Amsterdam, and I’m sad I won’t be able to attend), so I’ve been paying attention to re:Invent.

Generally, I tend to attend more community/FOSS and techie shows than big vendor blow-outs like AWS re:Invent. The very scale of the event is really impressive, and I have to give Amazon kudos for the slickness of the presentations and how smoothly the event is running. The registration, for instance, was totally slammed on day one – yet they kept the lines moving really well and even had a DJ (!) playing tunes in the corner to make the wait a little better.

The content on the other hand… well, it’s a bit generic and the keynote yesterday was definitely not what I was hoping for or expecting. First, I was surprised and disappointed at the amount of time Amazon spent calling out competitors (IBM, for an admittedly silly marketing stunt) and dissing private cloud. Does Amazon offer a solution that’s really appealing for certain applications or certain types of companies? Yup. Is public cloud ever going to be the majority of the compute market? I’m not convinced.

The keynote yesterday felt like a plea to enterprise, and way too much preaching to the converted and marketing fluff that we already knew anyway. Yeah, we get it: AWS is big, lots of customers (oooh, pretty NASCAR slides) and so forth. At least they did announce a few new services during the keynote, so attendees got a little excitement.

For me, the biggest part of any event is the “hallway track.” On one hand, it’s pretty good here because there’s about 9,000 people – you can easily find interesting people who are doing fun stuff with AWS and other tech, so that’s been good.

The bad, really bad, is the conference scheduling site is terrible and there’s no attendee directory whatsoever. I was doubly disappointed when I looked on Lanyrd and found only about 40 people signed up. It would have been great if I could have searched a directory (opt-in, of course) to try to connect with people ahead of time to meet and talk about their cloud usage.

Maybe next year. Overall, I think re:Invent is worth the time, money, and trip if you’re using AWS or are trying to disrupt AWS – but there are a number of things Amazon could do to make the conference more friendly for attendees and partners.