A Five Minute Overview of AWS Outposts

(If you would prefer to listen to this article, click this link to hear it using Amazon Polly. It will also be available in iTunes: search for LabR Learning Resources.)

Organizations across the globe are moving major parts of their infrastructure into the cloud using partners like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and any number of other public cloud solutions.

It is important to remember that public cloud doesn’t mean our information is public — only that we are using infrastructure which is publicly available. A major use case for these solutions is moving infrastructure for Internet facing applications to these solutions for scalability and edge delivery improvements.

However, we should also acknowledge that some organizations may choose for various reasons, concern over specific data types, legal, compliance and contractual issues, may choose to keep some applications and data on-premise. This means organizations end up with two environments with different approaches to getting infrastructure, connecting applications with data transfers, etc.

AWS is now providing a managed service bringing native AWS services into your data center, and other collocation environments. This article gives you a brief look at what AWS Outposts is, the primary use cases and benefits to organizations which are concerned about moving all of their applications and data into the cloud.

AWS Outposts is a new service from Amazon Web Services, announced at AWS re:Invent 2018, which brings AWS into your on-premise data center. Typically, organizations that wanted to move into the cloud but not move “everything”, were left in a “hybrid” operating model. This model increases costs as you have different skills needed to support both environments, different security and governance practices, etc.

Additionally, there are different development processes, and a lot of data moving back and forward between environments. Using AWS Outposts, it is possible to create a tightly integrated hybrid cloud and gain the benefits of using AWS managed services.

There are two methods to implementing AWS Outposts. The first your existing VMWare environment to run AWS managed VMWare images. This allows you to continue using the infrastructure investment you have in place, yet gain access to the AWS services and APIs directly within your data center.

The second uses an AWS “native variant”, where AWS ships the server configuration you would like directly to your data center. A wide array of instance types are available, and are shipped in quarter, half or full rack units.

At this time, there is little information immediately available on the exact availability of AWS Outposts. The AWS Outposts page mentions signing into the AWS Console, selecting your Outposts infrastructure type and ordering your hardware. However, as of December 28, 2018, Outposts is not visible on the AWS Console.

As an organization using AWS Outposts, you can reduce the complexity of your hybrid cloud. By bringing AWS services into your native environment, you can maintain tighter control over specific data and compute processes. Therefore, you can still enjoy the benefits of AWS while not exposing the data due to limitations from specific legal or contractual requirements.

Additionally, more applications in your organization can be migrated to a cloud model, reducing the costs of maintaining multiple development environments — one in the cloud and one on-premise — based upon where the application will ultimately reside. Even if you decide to migrate using a “lift and shift” approach, you can move these applications into the AWS Outposts model with no changes and still retain control.

To get started with AWS Outposts, you order the service, when the hardware arrives, connect the servers to local power and network, use the AWS Console to launch your instances in Outposts, and deploy your applications. The initial service offerings are Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances and Elastic Block Store (EBS) storage. AWS plans to include Relational Database Services (RDS), Elastic Container Store (ECS), Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), SageMaker, and Elastic Map Reduce (EMR) either at launch or soon after.

Like the cloud AWS infrastructure, AWS Outposts is fully managed by AWS. They are responsible for patching, managing the actual hardware infrastructure and the AWS services themselves. This means we can expect the AWS Shared Responsibility model is an integral part of AWS Outposts.

By using AWS Outposts, you lower your infrastructure management costs as you are no longer involved with the direct maintenance of the platform. This would be especially true if you select the option to ship AWS physical devices to your data center, but it is unclear how this extends to running Outposts on your existing VMWare infrastructure.

There is not a lot of information yet available on AWS Outposts, but the concept is intriguing. Organizations needing to keep specific applications in their data center, can now use native AWS services.

Organizations operating a hybrid cloud model between AWS and their on-premise data center should seriously stay on top of further announcements by signing up for more information and evaluating this as a solution to their hybrid cloud challenges.

  1. AWS Outposts Overview
  2. AWS Outposts Sign up

Copyright 2019, Chris Hare

Written by

Chris is the co-author of seven books and author of more than 70 articles and book chapters in technical, management, and information security publications.

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