Amazon is coming for those unable or unwilling to shelve on-premise infrastructure by bringing AWS hardware and services to the data centre

Amazon Web Services’ encroachment into enterprise IT went one step further yesterday with the cloud giant announcing the hardware it uses to power its own cloud is available to purchase.

Unveiled at re:Invent yesterday, Amazon Outposts is an on-prem data centre system consisting of fully configurable AWS-designed compute and storage racks and AWS software – allowing customers to run compute and storage on-prem and connect to AWS’s cloud.

“Outposts will allow you to have AWS hardware and services on-premises,” said AWS chief exec Andy Jassy.

Those looking to get stuck in with AWS Outposts have two options to choose from:

Coming to a data centre near you… in two ways

VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts allows, well, customers to run VMware Cloud on AWS locally on AWS Outposts, and is geared at users who want to use the same VMware control plane and APIs they’ve been using to run their infrastructure up until now.

AWS and VMware say this option provides on-prem VMware Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC) – compute, storage, and networking infrastructure, and can be managed as a service from the same console as VMware Cloud on AWS.

AWS Native is for those preferring to use the same APIs on-prem that they’re already running in AWS’s cloud – allowing users to run AWS services in their own data centres.

Although, Jassy said in a press conference that AWS will only deliver select services on Outposts, namely those that customers actually need to work seamlessly on-prem and on the cloud, such as compute, database and machine learning.

True Hybrid?

In an ideal world, Amazon would like everyone to ditch their on-prem infrastructure and sign-up to its public cloud. But the reality is many larger firms are not willing to give up their beloved data centres entirely, preferring incremental changes to preserve functionality for customers and employees.

Of course, heavily-regulated industries such as the financial industry are unable to hand over sensitive data for privacy reasons and more recent overarching regulations like GDPR have made public cloud even less viable for European enterprise.

More firms are opting for hybrid options that allow retention of certain core functions and data on-prem. But Amazon made no bones about the issues with current hybrid options and where they see Outposts fitting in the hybrid market (note, it involved heavily repeating the C-word: consistency).

In his keynote, Jassy said none of the hybrid options currently available provide a truly consistent hybrid experience.

“Customers want to work on-premises and in the cloud the exact same way,” he said.

And to be fair, Amazon has a point. Early attempts at integrating on-prem workloads with AWS cloud have been lacking – failing to provide the ability to use the same APIs, tools, or hardware across the two environments and requiring custom hardware management and manual software updates.

Speaking to The Stack via email, data centre expert Prof. Ian Bitterlin said Amazon Outposts presents a big threat to the hyperscale collocation/cloud players (e.g. Azure), rather than the  ‘local’ independent colos (e.g. InterXion).

“But it will have to be cheap and reliable, which has proven to be a hard combination to achieve,” he said.

“On the other hand the cake is getting bigger so there is plenty of room for new competition.”

“There just isn’t a lot of value in that type of on-premises offering and that’s why these solutions aren’t getting much traction,” Jassy said.

Jonas Caino, vice president of global sales at Etix Everywhere said the news is ‘testament to the strength and continued growth of the data-driven marketplace’.

There is undoubtedly a gap in the market for those wanting AWS services snugly integrated with on-prem infrastructure, and with Outposts Amazon will hope they have filled it.

Outposts is currently in private preview, with public GA launch coming in the second half of 2019.