September 8, 2014

How Amazon Web Services Uses Linux and Open Source

Chris Schlaeger, AWSAmazon Web Services first launched in 2006 with one instance and one operating system: Amazon Linux. The cloud computing giant has since expanded to offer customers the option of running on more than 30 instance types and more than 10 operating systems, but Linux, Xen and other open source projects remain the core technologies behind AWS.

“We view open source as a companion to AWS's business model,” said Chris Schlaeger, director of software development at Amazon Web Services and managing director of the Amazon Development Center Germany GmbH.

Schlaeger, who leads the team that develops Amazon’s cloud computing service, EC2, as well as Amazon Linux, will give a keynote presentation at CloudOpen Europe, Oct. 13-15 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Here he discusses how AWS uses Linux, the Amazon Linux operating system, the company's new development offices in Germany, and what he'll cover in his keynote presentation.

Linux.com: What are the building blocks of AWS? What role does Linux play?

Chris Schlaeger: Amazon Web Services is built on two fundamental services: S3 for storage services and EC2 for compute services. These were the first services AWS launched. Since launching in 2006 we have added more and more services that build on top of each other every year. In 2011 we added 80 new features and services, in 2012 it was 160. In 2013 it was 280 and we are already close to hitting this number for this year. Linux, in the form of Amazon Linux as well as Xen are fundamental technologies for AWS.

Since first launching in 2006 with one instance type, and one operating system, Amazon Linux, Amazon EC2 has now grown to more than 30 Instance types and more than 10 Operating Systems, both Linux and Windows, available from 10 infrastructure Regions in seven countries around the world. Customers now use Amazon EC2 for everything from media and web hosting to development and test environments, High Performance Computing to running ERP systems, running complex enterprise applications such as Oracle, SAP, IBM and Microsoft to Big Data analysis, and all using the same pay-as-you-go model with no long-term commitments.

What is Amazon Linux? How has Amazon customized the OS for its own purposes?

Amazon Linux is AWS’s own flavor of a Linux operating system. Customers using our EC2 service and all the services running on EC2 can use Amazon Linux as their operating system of choice. Over the years we have customized Amazon Linux based on the needs of AWS customers. We do still strive to be RHEL compatible to ease the customer transition to Amazon Linux. As my teams also develop the EC2 instance types we can ensure that Amazon Linux is the most optimized version of Linux to use within EC2.

AWS has a new development presence in Germany, can you tell us what you're up to there?

Since we launched the business in 2006 we have seen rapid growth in the services and AWS now has hundreds of thousands of customers in over 190 countries. Many of the most well-known start-ups in Germany, such as Wooga, OneFootball and Soundcloud use AWS as well as many well-known German enterprises such as Kaercher, Talanx AG and Siemens Healthcare.

In terms of our physical presence, we have offices in Munich, Berlin and Dresden. In May last year we opened the Amazon Development Center Germany GmbH. It has currently 2 major development sites in Berlin and Dresden. The teams in Berlin are focusing on Machine Learning while the Dresden teams are working on the Linux Kernel, Xen, EC2 instances and Amazon Linux. I'm very excited about how rapidly the Dresden site has grown over the last year or so. We've just added another floor to host even more Linux and Xen developers.

How does Amazon contribute to the Linux kernel and open source in general?

We view open source as a companion to AWS's business model. We use open source and have built many AWS services on top of open source technologies, like the Linux Kernel, Xen and MySQL. We also contribute to several open source projects.

If we find a bug in the Linux Kernel we usually send the patch upstream. It's much easier for us to ingest such fixes with the next Linux Kernel release than having to maintain our own patch sets with bug fixes.

Can you give us a short overview of what you'll discuss in your keynote at LinuxCon and CloudOpen Europe?

In the Keynote, I will provide an overview of some key AWS services and how they use Linux and Xen. I'll provide some insight into Amazon Linux and its development. This will include, among other things, an introduction to our Germany-based development activities.

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