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AWS' open source entreaties now include cloud credits

AWS will offer promotional cloud credits to open source project maintainers that meet certain criteria. The move comes after repeated tensions with some companies.

AWS is offering an olive branch to the open source software community through the issuance of promotional credits that developers can use in conjunction with its cloud platform.

AWS has ramped up its public efforts around open source through sponsorships, more code contributions and by open sourcing some of its own technology, the company said in a blog post.

Now it has expanded its existing promotional credit program to open source projects. "Typically, these credits are used to perform upstream and performance testing, CI/CD or storage of artifacts on AWS," the post stated. "We hope this program will free up resources for open source projects to further expand and innovate in their communities, as several projects are already doing."

Representatives from AdoptOpenJDK and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, among others, contributed statements to the blog that praised the AWS open source credit program and indicated they were already benefiting from it.

To qualify for the credits, open source project maintainers must have an active AWS account and no outstanding bills. Their project also must be licensed under ones recognized by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), which include the widely used GNU and Apache licenses. But exceptions can be made for non-OSI licenses, according to AWS.

Maintainers must request a specific amount of credits and describe how they plan to use them. The AWS open source credits are good for one year, the blog stated.

AWS will select recipients based on how they reflect Amazon's corporate leadership principles. Projects that have maintainers from more than one company or organization, and those owned by nonprofits will get preference, AWS said.

Questions linger around open source software (OSS)credit plan

In recent times, AWS has drawn criticism from some circles, including vendors that utilize open source technology, for taking too much and contributing back too little to projects.

While it's certainly an opportunity for AWS to try to build some goodwill, it is at the same time something like table stakes.
Stephen O'GradyAnalyst, RedMonk

In one instance, the tensions resulted in legal action. Elastic filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against AWS this month, several months after AWS released Open Distro for Elasticsearch. AWS at the time said the move was necessary due to Elastic's intermingling of proprietary code into the distributed analytics and search engine.

Meanwhile, some questions about the open source credit program aren't addressed in AWS' blog, such as the total value it plans to commit to the credits; the minimum or maximum amount that a project could receive; and what would happen to the credits if a project's maintainer sought to monetize it. An AWS spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Industry observers had mixed reactions to the news.

"It's actually pretty consistent with industry standard open source engagement to provide some level of free or heavily discounted services, so while it's certainly an opportunity for AWS to try to build some goodwill, it is at the same time something like table stakes," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk in Portland, Maine.

But another close watcher of AWS offered a more skeptical view.

Ryan Marsh, TheStack.ioRyan Marsh

"They could have made this a program years ago," said Ryan Marsh, a serverless expert and DevOps trainer at TheStack.io in Houston, who focuses on the AWS ecosystem.

"Open source groups have been reaching out to cloud vendors to donate resources for a long time," Marsh added. "I think in the past it was a more human process. They're making the process public for an obvious reason. ... Is the timing suspect? You tell me."

One thing is for sure: AWS hasn't yet gone as far as Google when it comes to embracing third-party companies that utilize open source.

At its Cloud Next conference in April, Google launched expanded partnerships with seven OSS vendors, including MongoDB, Redis and DataStax. Under the deal, the companies and Google plan to create tightly integrated, fully managed services on top of Google Cloud Platform that will feel native, right down to support and billing.

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