What is AWS Outposts? AWS in your house.

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The public cloud is great, but there are still some jobs you need to keep close to home. That’s why hybrid clouds, where you use both the public and private clouds to get your work done, are so popular. Lately, most of our attention has been focused on using Kubernetes container orchestration. But, for all the Kubernetes hype, there’s still interest in using public cloud technology in a private cloud and that’s where the forthcoming Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Outposts come in.  

In this AWS hybrid-cloud approach, you use the same AWS application programming interfaces (API), tools and infrastructure both on your premises and the AWS cloud. “Outposts bring native AWS services, infrastructure, and operating models to virtually any data center, co-location space, or on-premises facility,” AWS says.

There will be two varieties of Outposts. First, there’s VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts. This brings a fully-managed VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) and AWS compute and storage on-premises, and you use the VMware control plane and APIs to run your infrastructure. The other model, the AWS native variant of AWS Outposts, enables you to use the same AWS cloud APIs and control plane to run Outposts locally.

Outposts is a fully managed service. You can’t–at this point–install it on your existing servers. Instead, AWS delivers pre-configured hardware and software to your on-premise data center or co-location space. As AWS CEO Andy Jassy said when he introduced Outpost at the re:Invent conference in 2018, “Customers will order racks with the same hardware AWS uses in all of our regions, with software with AWS services on it – like compute and storage – and then you can work in two variants.”

Specifically, Matt Garman, AWS compute services’ VP, says Outposts “is a fully managed service; the physical infrastructure is delivered and installed by AWS, operated and monitored by AWS, and automatically updated and patched as part of being connected to an AWS Region.” 

In short, you’re bringing AWS inside your data center with this approach. However, the AWS in your office can’t be used by outsiders. AWS manages Outposts, but you control it. 

Outposts isn’t ignoring the containers and Kubernetes revolution. It will support both Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)

Because Outposts is a de facto AWS Region extension in your own data center, services can seamlessly work with any AWS service or resource. For example, Garman said, “you can use private connectivity to your Amazon S3 buckets or Amazon DynamoDB tables in the public region.” Amazon tools will work with Outposts as well. API calls will be logged via CloudTrail automatically and existing CloudFormation templates will work as well. 

In addition, it will enable you to use Amazon Elastic Map Reduce (EMR) clusters for data analytics, and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) for your databases. Eventually, Outputs will also support  machine learning with SageMaker and streaming data pipelines with Amazon Managed Streaming for Kafka (MSK).

So, should you consider it? First and foremost this is a service for companies that have committed to AWS. Second, do you need sub-ten-millisecond speeds? If you do, then Outposts may be for you. 

Garman explained, “One of the most common scenarios is applications that need single-digit millisecond latency to end-users or onsite equipment. Customers may need to run compute-intensive workloads on their manufacturing factory floors with precision and quality. Others have graphics-intensive applications such as image analysis that need low-latency access to end-users or storage-intensive workloads that collect and process hundreds of TBs of data a day. Customers want to integrate their cloud deployments with their on-premises environments and use AWS services for a consistent hybrid experience.” Looked at in this way, Outposts is both a way to deploy an AWS-centric hybrid-cloud and an edge computing approach. 

Is it for everyone? No. But, if your business needs all the compute speed it can get and is happy with committing its IT future to AWS, then Outposts deserves your serious consideration. 

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