AWS rolls out 'Linux 2 Ready' scheme to lure penguins into using its homegrown distro

'Many customer workloads perform better on Amazon Linux 2' firm claims, but where is the source?

Amazon Web Services has pushed out a "Service Ready" software certification program for its homegrown Linux 2 distribution, working with over 20 firms including Chef, Datadog, DataStax, Hashicop, Kong, New Relic, Snyk, Tableau and Trend Micro.

Amazon Linux 2, successor to an earlier distro which was pre-installed on an Amazon Linux AMI, is a distribution developed by AWS including a “tuned Linux kernel” and “packages that enable easy integration with AWS”, according to the FAQdoc. It is primarily designed for AWS VMs, but you can also download installation images for popular hypervisors including KVM, Hyper-V, VirtualBox and ESXi.

It was introduced in December 2017 and is currently an LTS (Long Term Support) release, with support until June 30 2023. There is provision for “rapidly evolving technologies” too, but these come via an extras channel that is not covered by LTS.

The company is a little mysterious about the source code for Amazon Linux 2. “Currently we do not have any public repos for Amazon Linux Kernel code. But you can get it from the source rpm,” said an Amazon employee. So it is possible to get the kernel source, but the AWS approach is not a collaborative one. The operating system seems to be based on CentOS 7. The FAQ states that the “yumdownloader --source tool in Amazon Linux 2 provides source code access for many components,” – "many," note, but not all. AWS offers several varieties of Linux 2 machine images, optimised for different purposes.

In its latest emission on the subject, Amazon said that “with Amazon Linux 2, AWS customers get an application environment that offers long term support with access to the latest innovations in the Linux ecosystem … Amazon Linux 2 Ready Partners run quality assurance and security tests on their software, and provide support for their products on Amazon Linux 2.”

The Service Ready program already exists for a couple of other services, including AWS PrivateLink (connectivity between AWS services and to on-premises networks) and Amazon Redshift (data warehousing), and will shortly be extended to Amazon RDS (relational databases) and AWS Lambda (serverless functions).

If you want to get your software certified, you have to be a member of the Amazon Partner Network, paying $2,500 per year and jumping through a number of hoops to demonstrate your deep knowledge of all things AWS. Then you can submit your software for validation. "AWS customers benefit by spending less time evaluating new tools," said Amazon, words that are chilling to vendors outside the scheme.

Collaboration? We've heard of it

Use of Amazon Linux 2 is optional and a wide variety of Linux distros are on offer in the AWS marketplace, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, Fedora, Debian, SUSE, Ubuntu and many more.

The appeal of using Amazon Linux 2 and certified software on AWS is that it offers some reassurance that everything will work, and less opportunity for either AWS or software vendors to wriggle out of support commitments.

That said, the dominance of AWS and its relatively closed approach to how Amazon Linux 2 is developed means that further incentives to use its in-house distribution is not great for the wider Linux community. The path AWS has taken with Bottlerocket, a Linux distro designed for hosting and running containers, and which is open source on GitHub, is healthier for the Linux ecosystem. ®

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