Amazon released Linux software that runs on corporate servers

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  • Amazon quietly began last month offering corporate customers its own version of Linux called Linux 2.
  • Customers can run Linux 2 in the Amazon cloud or on their own internal servers.
  • This is Amazon’s first major effort to deliver software that will run on customer computers rather than just in its cloud.

Amazon’s cloud business has just taken a big step outside the cloud.

Last month, shortly after Amazon Web Service’s giant tech conference, the company began offering its corporate customers a new version of the Linux operating system it calls Amazon Linux 2. The new product marks a Departure for the cloud computing juggernaut, as the software can be installed on customer servers rather than run from Amazon data centers.

Amazon will lease access to Linux 2 to its cloud customers. But it’s also making the software available for companies to install on their servers. It can run on many of the most popular server software and technologies, including Microsoft’s Hyper-V, VMware, Oracle’s VM VirtualBox, and Docker.

Amazon offers five years of support for Linux 2, including things like security fixes and bug fixes, just like other software vendors do for their products. And he designed Linux 2 to work well with open source databases, programming languages, and other popular applications.

As the name of the product suggests, this is actually the second version of Linux offered by Amazon. Customers could also run the previous version on their own servers, but on a much more limited basis.

This move matters because Amazon is the company that popularized cloud computing and in doing so threatened the companies that provide server hardware and software. Instead of buying servers and software, businesses can now rent everything from the cloud and pay fees based on actual consumption.

The success of AWS has seen companies ditch their servers and storage and sometimes disconnect all of their data centers to go into the Amazon cloud. This trend has hurt legacy giants including EMC, Hewlett Packard and IBM.

Microsoft, Oracle (which has its own flavor of Linux), Red Hat, and others have tried to counter AWS with a concept called hybrid computing. Hybrid technology allows businesses to operate both the cloud and their own on-premises servers and switch between the two.

Linux 2 is another attempt for Amazon to enter the hybrid world. Last year, it partnered with VMware to make it easy for VMware customers to move their applications to the Amazon cloud.

Linux 2 is also a subtle shot at the biggest player in the Linux market: Red Hat. Amazon even announced Linux 2 the same day Red Hat announced its third quarter results. Even though Red Hat reported a strong quarter that beat expectations and offered better-than-expected forecasts for the year as a whole, its shares sold on Amazon news. The two companies are partners, but Amazon has a reputation for competing with its partners.

Still, Red Hat investors may have overreacted. In a research note, Deutsche Bank’s Karl Keirstead advised investors to calm down. While the Amazon version of Linux 2 is “not a good thing” for Red Hat, he said, the software is geared towards development and testing rather than running major commercial applications. Companies won’t be abandoning Red Hat anytime soon, Keirstead wrote, reiterating his “buy” note on Red Hat shares.


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