Amazon launches AWS BugBust to make finding software bugs more fun

Amazon Web Services Inc. is trying to encourage developers to build better software with fewer bugs with the launch today of its global AWS BugBust competition.

The idea is to get developers to compete to find and fix more than a million software bugs before the end of the year. Developers that find the most bugs will be able to win prizes including an all-expenses-paid trip to AWS re:Invent 2021 in Las Vegas.

AWS Principal Advocate Martin Beeby explained in a blog post that AWS BugBust takes the concept of a “bug bash” to the next level, giving developers an incentive to create and manage private events within their organizations that “gamify” the process of finding and fixing bugs within their software.

Beeby explained that bug bashes are common events at software companies that are typically ran in the weeks before the launch of a new product or service. AWS BugBust provides a kind of framework for bug bashes, with automated code analysis tools, built-in leaderboards, custom challenges and rewards.

“AWS BugBust fosters team building and introduces some friendly competition into improving code quality and application performance,” Beeby said. “What’s more, you developers can take part in the world’s largest code challenge, win fantastic prizes and receive kudos from their peers.”

Amazon has made it possible for companies to kick off an AWS BugBust event through the Amazon CodeGuru console, which is a machine learning-based developer tool that can be used to identify bugs in software. AWS BugBust will have a leaderboard to rank developers based on the number of bugs they find and fix, and Amazon will dish out achievement badges and possible prizes, it said.

Swami, Sivasubramanian, AWS’ vice president of Amazon Machine Learning, said developers are often so busy building and adding new features to applications that bug-finding often becomes an afterthought.

“It’s difficult to get time from skilled developers to quickly perform effective code reviews since they’re busy building, innovating and pushing out deployments,” he said, touting AWS’ “entirely new approach to help developers improve code quality, eliminate bugs, and boost application performance, while saving millions of dollars in application resource costs.”

As well as winning internal contests, developers will also have the incentive of helping their companies to top the global AWS BugBust leaderboard that’s updated each time a developer finds and fixes a bug and wins points. Each developer who reaches 100 points will win an AWS BugBust T-shirt, and those who reach 2,000 points will get themselves a stylish AWS BugBust Varsity Jacket. The top 10 developers in Amazon’s global BugBust ranking will receive tickets to AWS re:Invent.

There are a few conditions, though. Notably, to compete in the global challenge, projects must be written in Java or Python, which are the only languages that AWS CodeGuru supports.

To encourage participants even more, Beeby said the costs incurred from using Amazon CodeGuru’s Reviewer and Profiler tools will be free of charge for 30 days.

“This 30-day free period applies even if you have already utilized the free tiers for Amazon CodeGuru Reviewer and Amazon CodeGuru Profiler,” he said. “You can create multiple AWS BugBust events within the 30-day free trial period. After the 30-day free trial expires, you will be charged for Amazon CodeGuru Reviewer and Amazon CodeGuru Profiler based on your usage in the challenge.”

Analyst Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. told SiliconANGLE that Amazon seems to be onto a good idea, since crowdsourcing is one of the most powerful forces in software development.

“Open source in a deeper sense can even be interpreted as crowdsourcing, and now AWS is hoping to take advantage of it with AWS BugBust, which looks to be a fun and easy way to improve code quality,” Mueller said. “AWS BugBust is, however, also a complementary tool that focuses developers on the Amazon CodeGuru offering, leading to more opportunities for developer engagement. So it’s a smart move by AWS, and we can expect its cloud rivals to come up with some sort of response to it.”

For now though Amazon is in the lead and several organizations have already indicated they will take part in AWS BugBust. They include Miami Dade College, which sees the challenge as a fun and educational way to help students become more proficient in the Python programming language.

“We plan to use AWS BugBust every semester as a platform for our students to showcase and enhance their coding skills, all while being part of an exciting bug-bashing contest,” said Antonio Delgado, Miami Dade’s dean of engineering, technology and design.

Amazon said AWS BugBust is available now in the East Coast of the U.S. and will soon be rolled out in any region that supports Amazon CodeGuru.

Image: Amazon

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