James Governor's Monkchips

AWS Levels Up in Open Source Observability: Some thoughts on hiring JBD

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So many talented distributed systems engineers have joined Apple recently, that when I heard Jaana B Dogan was leaving Google Cloud I immediately and incorrectly assumed she was heading to Cupertino.

But then in a tweet she revealed her new employer will in fact be AWS.

Soon, I’m joining AWS as a Principal Engineer to work on AWS’s observability efforts. I’m excited to come back to this space and work with some of my favorite people again. I’ll also once again be active on open source and open standards efforts in this domain.

Frankly this hire is a big win for Amazon in a world of marginal gains. Dogan is an extremely talented engineer. When I give talks on Observability I invariably recommend that people follow her work to learn more about the discipline and what it means at hyper-scale.

The second clause of Dogan’s tweet is perhaps the most interesting one, though, because of what it says about the ongoing change of culture at AWS. I mean – who goes to AWS to be more active in open source?

What a gift for Matt Asay, Head of Open Source Strategy at AWS, who has been diligently crafting stories that encourage AWS engineering teams to be more amenable to open source, and the outer world to think more positively about AWS in relation to commercial open source.

Asay wrote a great post – How to become a Redis maintainer one contribution at a time – in August about the journey of Madelyn Olson, an AWS employee who recently became a Redis Maintainer. Earning the trust of Salvatore Sanfilippo, founder of the Redis project, is, shall we say, not an easy thing to do. And earning trust is exactly what AWS needs to do with the market at large when it comes to open source. That’s Asay’s bailiwick. Carry water, make small contributions before big ones, help out, earn trust, rinse, repeat.

AWS already has a significant monitoring business in play with tools such as Amazon CloudWatch and AWS X-Ray. Cloud Native Observability however is a priority and now AWS has a principal engineer to drive product direction, assuming that is indeed the role Dogan will play. Her statement about open source and engaging with the market on standardisation is really intriguing to me. Observability has grown up as a discipline alongside the emergence of Kubernetes as an industry standard but the platforms for it are not yet so clearly defined in terms of de facto standards that organisations can bet on. Prometheus is likely to be part of the answer. Maybe Jaeger for Tracing. Open Telemetry will be part of the equation. Grafana analytics. And so we’ll see.

It will be very interesting then to see what kinds of impacts and choices AWS starts to make in terms of Observability, potentially working with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation to drive further standardisation. Google Cloud is more ambiguous about the CNCF these days, and nature abhors a vacuum.

Hiring JBD and giving her an explicit mandate to engage with open source – this feels like it could be somewhat transformative for AWS and how it interacts with the “outside” world.


disclosure: AWS and GCP are both clients.

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