At RE:Invent 2018 this last month, AWS announced a flurry of services, one of the most interesting being AWS Outposts. Outposts is a fully managed, on-premises ITaaS intended to mirror the AWS experience and address applications that are latency sensitive or need to be on-premises due to compliance regulations. There are two flavors. One, AWS Outpost Native, is an all-AWS solution running a native EC2 instance. The other is VMware Cloud on AWS Outpost running essentially VMware’s SDDC stack, again as a managed on-premises service. As these integrated hardware/software systems will not ship until 2H 2019, no pricing or payment schema were cited, except that they will mirror the AWS pay-as-you-go model. No capital purchases, no asset transfers are required.
AWS Outpost Native
AWS Outpost is AWS’ hardware running native EC2 and EBS as an Amazon VPC in the nearest AWS Region. Configurations will come in ¼, ½, full rack and multi-rack with options for compute, memory and storage. The system is not expected to need any services to install, though AWS stated they will supply if needed. Once unpacked and plugged in, it will appear on a customer’s AWS console within an existing region. All updates and maintenance will be done by AWS, just as if it was in their cloud. Additional AWS services will be available. Some of those cited include ECS (containers), RDS (but not Aurora), EMR (map reduce) and Sagemaker. However, customers should be aware that AWS Outpost will not connect to an on-premises data center network; rather it is an extension of your AWS VPC environment. This is an issue that AWS must address in the future, as in order to move workloads from an on-premises data center environment to Outpost without first moving the application or data to the public cloud.
VMware Cloud on AWS Outpost
The VMware Cloud option is also AWS’ hardware with the same configurations, but one that uses VMware’s SDDC stack running on EC2 bare-metal, delivered as a fully managed service. Once unpacked and plugged in, it will show on the customer’s vCenter Console as “VMC on AWS Outpost” that is VMware Cloud Managed. VMware will have access to Outpost capacity, do patch management. They will also provide first call support. The SDDC stack for this version of Outpost includes ESX, vSAN, NSX, vRealize and stated plans for AppDefense, Data Protection with VADP API’s and support for Kubernetes. Like AWS, customers will be able to use AWS services on Outpost including RDS, EMR and ECS. Unlike the AWS Outpost Native, this version will connect to on-premises networks using NSX, allowing customers to move workloads directly.
Both versions of Outpost can ordered through an AWS account or through Amazon.com with a planned 2-day delivery. As mentioned above, no pricing details were announced. Nor is it clear if shipping is free with Prime.
AWS recognizes that not all data center workloads can be migrated to the cloud. Outpost is AWS’ way to control the customer’s on and off-premises experience while giving them what seems to be a seem-less and similar experience. This is in line with the strategic premise of “let us do the data center driving and you worry about the application development.” Outpost can also be seen as AWS’ answer to Microsoft’s AzureStack which to date has seen slow customer adoption.
For VMware, this may be a very powerful move, enabling Development to leverage an off-premises environment, if so desired, while Operations manages the strategic on-premises site. What is curious is how the hardware strategy will play out with Dell Technologies. It is a proof point for Pat Gelsinger that VMware plays with all vendors, and is not beholden to the Dell EMC organization.
For IT organizations that are all-in on VMware, depending on the pricing, this maybe a strategic hybrid cloud solution that answers the need for the agility of DevOps teams. As AWS Outpost will not ship until later in 2019, many details are yet to be determined and proved.