More than a year back, Amazon Web Services announced a new marketplace around their EC2 offering called Paid AMI Support. Under this program, one can share AMIs (Amazon Machine Image) with other users for a fee. Developers and System Administrators can build applications stacks and offer it to other customers based on a fee structure that builds on top of the existing AWS fee structure. Whenever someone uses the shared AMI, the developer of the AMI gets the extra amount credited back to their Amazon account. Let us say I build a Ruby on Rails Stack and offer it to AWS customers at the cost of few cents more than what Amazon charges users for instance hours, upload and download bandwidth,etc., then my AWS account will be credited back with the difference as long as the other user continues using my AMI based EC2 instance. This marketplace is pretty useful for developers and system admins to make some extra bucks.
This works well for Opensource operating systems like Linux and OpenSolaris. Developers can set up the OS on local machines, build an application stack on top of it, optimize it, bundle it as AMI and share them with other users. The freedom offered by Opensource licensing allows them to be a player in this EC2 marketplace. Anyone sitting in any country in the world can offer personalized AMIs to anyone else in the world and make money out of it.
This is not the case with proprietary Windows based AMIs. EC2 users can only take the barebones Windows AMIs offered by Amazon and install applications on the running EC2 instances. This is due to the proprietary nature of Windows OS licensing restricting the options for users. Under current licensing terms, there is no way for others to build an application stack on top of Windows OS, optimize and deliver it as ready made AMIs to other customers. In short, Windows based EC2 is not a player in the above said marketplace due to its restrictive licensing policies.
I am not advocating that we need to ignore the proprietary systems in the Cloud Computing era. Even though I would prefer to use only Opensource and Open Standards based vendors, I am also happy to see proprietary vendors participating in this space. The idea behind this post is to highlight the inherent limitations of the proprietary licensing in its current format and to suggest that vendors using proprietary licensing for their products should adapt themselves to the changed computing landscape. If they fail to adapt and modify their licensing to the cloud computing environment, they will end up losing the game in this marketplace.
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