What AWS Outposts Mean for Channel

AWS' Outposts may be good news for customers with hybrid cloud plans, but partners shouldn't expect integration or hardware sales opportunities

December 3, 2018

3 Min Read
Hybrid cloud data center

By Lynn Greiner

At its re:Invent conference last week, Amazon Web Services finally acknowledged something that virtually every vendor has been talking about for years: It really is a hybrid world. Enterprises still need to keep some workloads in their own facilities, for reasons including latency sensitivity, data volumes (think Internet of Things) or other local requirements. Until now, AWS had nothing to offer these customers. That changed at re:Invent when the company announced AWS Outposts, which are aimed at meeting hybrid demand while making sure Amazon has a foothold in both cloud and the data center.

Think of Outposts, scheduled to be available in the second half of 2019, as “AWS in a box” for the customer data center, co-location space or on-premises facility. They’re fully configured and loaded racks of hardware and software, installed and managed by AWS, that contain the same software, services, infrastructure, management tools, development and deployment models that users are accustomed to on AWS in the cloud. They’re designed for workloads that must remain on-premises, such as those with low-latency requirements or local data processing needs. AWS cites telecom virtual network functions, high-frequency trading, industrial automation and other such applications as possible use cases.

It will come in two variants: AWS Outposts running native AWS APIs, and VMware Cloud on AWS. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said during the announcement that the VMware variant will be a fully integrated solution, including a native version of VMware Cloud Foundation for EC2.

“VMware Cloud on AWS broke the barriers between the data center and the cloud by combining the best of the private cloud and public cloud in the AWS cloud,” said Pat Gelsinger, chief executive officer, VMware, at re:Invent. “Today we expand our strategic collaboration with AWS to provide our mutual enterprise customers with more choice and options as they extend their hybrid cloud environments to drive agility, simplicity, security, and full infrastructure interoperability.”

Stephen Schmidt, vice president, security engineering and CISO at AWS, said in a briefing that Outposts will use the same security model as cloud-based AWS, with no trusted links between regions and hardened devices that wipe themselves if interfered with the guarding encryption keys. Hardware security measures, however, will be different from what AWS deploys in its data centers. Rack construction will be different, for example.

“The physical security wrapper will be unique to Outposts,” Schmidt said.

And, AWS CEO Andy Jassy noted that customers won’t…

…receive all AWS service in Outposts.

“Our aim is not to reproduce all of AWS,” Jassy said. “It remains to be seen how many services will be in Outposts.”

To begin with, there will be a basic set of services that customers have requested; he didn’t specify exactly which ones, nor did he reveal the specs of the hardware, noting that we will hear more next year. That set off speculation about whether VMware sister company Dell would have an inside track on hardware. Jassy declined to speculate, saying only that the racks would be filled with the same gear AWS runs in its regions. While some customization will be possible, what’s clear for partners is that Outposts don’t represent a hardware sales or integration service opportunity. AWS insists that “Outposts are fully managed and supported by AWS, and AWS automatically manages and updates AWS Outposts as part of its ongoing operations in the public AWS region. You do not have to worry about updating or patching infrastructure.”

Customers or partners will order their Outposts by logging into their AWS Management Console and selecting what they need. Gelsinger said he expects that Outposts will also be available through VMware and AWS’ respective partner programs.

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