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AWS commits to update its own Linux every other year

Starting with a release called Amazon Linux 2022 that just hit preview

Amazon Web Services has announced that it will release an updated version of its own Linux every two years, starting with Amazon Linux 2022, which it is previewing now.

The cloud colossus launched its first Linux distro in 2010, and seven … years … later … delivered a successor.

In the name of speeding things up a bit, Jeff Bezos's computer rental service has promised a new release every other year, each of which will be supported for five years and receive quarterly tweaks.

AL2022 uses the Fedora project as its upstream, but AWS may add or replace specific packages from other non-Fedora upstreams. The preview of AL2022 is based on Fedora34, while the full release will move up to Fedora 35 (which was released on 2 November).

The SELinux security module is enabled and enforced by default in AL2022, but EC2 instances running the OS won't automatically implement patches or security updates. Users can instead choose to automate installation of packages, or patches, or both.

For high-level packages, updates will be included in the quarterly install, but won't be imposed on users. "For example, default Python version in Amazon Linux 2022 may be 3.8, but we will add Python 3.9 (python39) as a separate namespaced package whenever it is made available," explains an FAQ about AL2022.

Default packages included in a given release "will continue to be supported throughout the life of AL2022".

The GitHub repo for the OS includes a roadmap detailing future additions.

Migrating from previous versions of Amazon Linux won't be easy. AWS recommends "replacing your instances and migrating your application stack along with the OS configuration to a new AL2022 AMI". So that's your afternoon gone.

Amazon's pitch for the new release cycle is stability and predictability – which is just what the likes of Microsoft, Red Hat, Canonical, and SUSE have offered for years. The newly announced release cycle and AL2022 suggest AWS has decided it needs to play the OS game with the same professionalism as its rivals.

But AWS also offers "no license costs, tight integration with AWS-specific tools and capabilities, immediate access to new AWS innovations, and a single-vendor support experience". That combination is a clear pitch for customers to use AL2022 if they want a top-to-bottom AWS experience.

Other clouds can't – or don't – make that pitch. Microsoft isn't fussed which OS you use in Azure, but does recommend the Windows-Server-centric AzureStack for hybrid clouds. Google doesn't have a server OS, but asserts the fact it invented Kubernetes makes its cloud a fine place to put it to work. IBM offers a POWER cloud, and Oracle has a SPARC cloud, but both are niche concerns, and each player emphasises its x86 and Ampere offerings as the tools with which to run mainstream workloads.

Other Linux-slingers, meanwhile, make their money by selling support subscriptions. AWS is giving that away for free.

The cloud pioneer is also ostensibly indifferent to which OS you run in its cloud – you'll be paying it something regardless of your choice. But the fact that it's upped its game as an OS provider hints that the cloudy concern has a stronger preference for its own OS than has previously been expressed. ®

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