The AWS Bulldozer and Elasticsearch: Can the Rubber Trees Grow Back?

January 22, 2021

In 1955 or 1956, I lived in Campinas, Brazil. My father worked from RG LeTourneau. He had the delightful job of setting up a factory to produce what were then called sheep foot rollers. Most people are not aware of the function of a sheep’s foot roller. Let me explain.

Hoot a D9 or other comparable bulldozer to two or more sheep foot rollers. Drive the bulldozer, scraper, or other heavy duty machine through a grassy field, a jungle or grassland. Crush and smash the trees, plants, and animals. What’s in the wake of the snorting and roaring yellow beast is a surface almost ready for paving. That’s right. The sheep foot rollers made the Trans-Amazon highway a reality.

Holmes Sheepfoot Rollers & Parts

What did the fleets of earth moving machinery do to the Hevea brasiliensis, a species of rubberwood. Well, in the case of highway deforestation, the elastic plants did not fare particularly well.


What does this slice of my life have to do with search, retrieval, log file analysis, information access, and other content related activities?

Stepping Up for a Truly Open Source Elasticsearch” reminded me of the impact of the bulldozers and the sheep foot roller combos. The write up explains:

We launched Open Distro for Elasticsearch in 2019 to provide customers and developers with a fully featured Elasticsearch distribution that provides all of the freedoms of ALv2-licensed software. Open Distro for Elasticsearch is a 100% open source distribution that delivers functionality practically every Elasticsearch user or developer needs, including support for network encryption and access controls. In building Open Distro, we followed the recommended open source development practice of “upstream first.”

Who is the “we” driving what I think of as a digital bulldozer? Why none other than Amazon.

I wrote about Elastic search’s difficult decision to try to stave off the building of an information superhighway directly over the Elastic NV buildings in Amsterdam. You can find that essay in “Enterprise Search: Flexible and Stretchy. Er, No.”

I think my observation that it was too late for Elastic NV. Perhaps the company can find a way to avoid the Bezos bulldozer. The sentiments about the virtues of open source software echo through the Amazon blog post and the Elastic NV explanation of its decision to be a different flavor of open source goodness.

Put that handwaving aside.

The function of the bulldozer and the sheep foot roller is to build a new trail. That trail leads to Amazon AWS revenues, service offerings, and integrated functionality.

Vrrooom. Too bad about those hyacinth macaws. My father and Mr. LeTourneau were not environmentalists. Neither was particularly elastic either. Both loved the results of big yellow machines dragging sheep foot rollers across the virgin landscape.

There’s a lesson here. The Trans-Amazon highway is visible from the international space station. The rubber trees and other trivialities are not.

Stephen E Arnold, January 22, 2021


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