Week 12, 2019 - Open Distro for Elasticsearch; Corretto 11; Open Source and AWS

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Last week there were a couple of open source releases at AWS. They announced Open Distro for Elasticsearch and Corretto 11 became generally available. This, therefore, seems like a good time to have a slightly broader look at AWS’ sometimes contentious relationship with open source.

Open Distro for Elasticsearch

Open Distro for Elasticsearch1 is not a fork of Elasticsearch. At least, according to the introductory post from AWS. This is because they aim to push everything back up to the original repos as well. Whether that will actually happen, in part because it might not get accepted, is another matter of course.

The main reason for this non-fork of Elasticsearch is to have a version of Elasticsearch without proprietary code. I wasn’t aware of this, but it seems that since June last year more and more proprietary code has shown up in the Elasticsearch codebase and AWS wanted to make sure there is a version available without that. The main issue with mixing proprietary code with code that has a more restrictive license is that it makes it unclear what code you can change and what you can’t. Which probably explains why AWS didn’t start this alone but set up Open Distro for Elasticsearch together with Expedia and Netflix.

This first release has many security enhancements included as well, and it will be interesting to see what else will be added in the future. And how much of that will end up in the original Elasticsearch codebase, after all if it’s not a fork it should all end up there.

Corretto 11

I wrote about Corretto when it was first announced, and in February Corretto 8 became generally available. Less than a month later, Corretto 11 does the same after a pretty short beta and preview period.

If you’re not familiar with it, Corretto is based on OpenJDK and came about as a reaction to Oracle putting more restrictions on Java. Huh, that kind of sounds similar to their reasoning behind Open Distro for Elasticsearch2. Anyway, the difference between Corretto and OpenJDK is that it comes with the AWS backing that promises security updates until 20243.

Open Source and AWS

But let’s look a bit closer again at how AWS handles open source software4. The above examples are aimed at keeping code open, whereas the release of Amazon DocumentDB works around some licensing issues they had with MongoDB.

In a separate post regarding Open Distro, Adrian Cockcroft explains that from AWS’ point of view they are trying to do what is best for their users. I have no reason not to believe him about that, and it seems to reflect their actions quite well too. From a business perspective that also makes sense. AWS makes money as long as developers want to use their platform, and that depends on AWS having the best solutions5.

Are they always as open as people outside of the company want? Of course not and besides, they are the 800-pound gorilla in the cloud world which makes those same people suspect of their motives. Nonetheless, I do feel that AWS tries to be more open now than they did even a couple of years ago. Let’s assume it keeps heading that way, but let’s also not be completely blinded by words and look at their actions. After all, those speak louder than words.

Other Updates

A couple of small things I want to point out. First, this site now has a search function built in; please let me know how this works for you. In addition, I wrote another post for last month’s meetup on the AWS User Group site, which went up earlier today. As usual, this includes videos of the presentations which you might enjoy.


  1. A clear winner in their wonderful naming strategy. [return]
  2. I’m shocked that my subjects work so well together. [return]
  3. 2023 for Corretto 8 [return]
  4. As far as I can see from the outside. [return]
  5. The need to constantly attract users is why I often find the argument for vendor lock-in where it concerns cloud environments silly. For most services you pay by the minute or even shorter periods of time. If you really want to leave, it’s possible. There are switching costs of course, just like if you moved to a different data center when people still used those, but that’s not an argument to build a worse solution for more money because you fear getting locked in. [return]
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