Yes, Microsoft have had the Azure Stack concept for a number of years now, however they have not executed on the promise of that yet. Azure Stack is seen by many as a white elephant even though it’s now in the wild and (depending on who you talk to) doing relatively well in certain verticals. The point though is that even Microsoft did not have the power to make people truely believe that a combination of a public cloud and on premises platform was the path to hybridity.
AWS is a Juggernaut and it’s my belief that they now have reached an inflection point in mindshare and can now dictate trends in our industry. They had enough power for VMware to partner with them so VMware could keep vSphere relevant in the cloud world. This resulted in VMware Cloud on AWS. It seems like AWS have realised that with this partnership in place, they can muscle their way into the on-premises/enterprise world that VMware have and still dominate…at this stage.
Outposts as a Product Name is no Accident
Like many, I like the product name Outposts. It’s catchy and straight away you can make sense of what it is…however, I decided to look up the offical meaning of the word…and it makes for some interesting reading:
- An isolated or remote branch
- A remote part of a country or empire
- A small military camp or position at some distance from the main army, used especially as a guard against surprise attack
The first definition as per the Oxford Dictionary fits the overall idea of AWS Outposts. Putting a compute platform in an isolated or remote branch office that is seperate to AWS regions while also offering the ability to consume that compute platform like it was an AWS region. This represents a legitimate use case for Outposts and can be seen as AWS fulling a gap in the market that is being craved for by shifting IT sentiment.
The second definition is an interesting one when taken in the context of AWS and Amazon as a whole. They are big enough to be their own country and have certainly built up an empire over the last decade. All empires eventually crumble, however AWS is not going anywhere fast. This move does however indicate a shift in tactics and means that AWS can penetrate the on-premises market quicker to extend their empire.
The third definition is also pertinent in context to what AWS are looking to achieve with Outposts. They are setting up camp and positioning themselves a long way from their traditional stronghold. However my feeling is that they are not guarding against an attack…they are the attack!
Where does VMware fit in all this?
Given my thoughts above…where does VMware fit into all this? At first when the announcement was made on stage I was confused. With Pat Gelsinger on stage next to Andy Jessy my first impression was that VMware had given in. Here was AWS announcing a direct competitive platform to on-premises vSphere installations. Not only that, but VMware had announced Project Dimension at VMworld a few months earlier which looked to be their own on-premises managed service offering…though the wording around that was for edge rather than on-premises.
With the initial dust settled and after reading this blog post from William Lam, I came to understand the VMware play here.
VMware and Amazon are expanding their partnership to deliver a new, as-a-service, on-premises offering that will include the full VMware SDDC stack (vSphere, NSX, vSAN) running on AWS Outposts, a fully managed and configurable server and network installation built with AWS-designed hardware. VMware Cloud in AWS Outposts is VMware’s new As-a-Service offering in partnership with AWS to run on AWS Outposts – it will leverage the innovations we’ve developed with Project Dimension and apply them on top of AWS Outposts. VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts will be a subscription-based service and will support existing VMware payment options.
The reality is that on-premises environments are not going away any time soon but customers like the operating model of the cloud. More and more they don’t care about where infrastructure lives as long as a services outcome is achieved. Customers are after simplicity and cost efficiency. Outposts delivers all this by enabling convenience and choice…the choice to run VMware for traditional workloads using the familiar VMware SDDC stack all while having access to native AWS services.
A Managed Service Offering means a Mind shift
The big shift here from VMware that began with VMware Cloud on AWS is a shift towards managed services. A fundamental change in the mindset of the customer in the way in which they consume their infrastructure. Without needing to worry about the underlying platform, IT can focus on the applications and the availability of those applications. For VMware this means from the VM up…for AWS, this means from the platform up.
VMware Cloud on AWS is a great example of this new managed services world, with VMware managing most of the traditional stack. VMware can now extend VMware Cloud on AWS to Outposts to boomerang the management of on-premises as well. Overall Outposts is a win win for both AWS and VMware…however proof will be in the execution and uptake. We won’t know how it all pans out until the product becomes available…apparently in the later half of 2019.
IT admins have some contemplating to do as well…what does a shift to managed platforms mean for them? This is going to be an interesting ride as it pans out over the next twelve months!