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How Are AWS, Azure, and Google Making Hybrid Cloud Deployment Easier?

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  • In the last 6 months, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) have announced new products that support hybrid cloud infrastructure and bring their services to their clients’ private clouds and on-premise frameworks. These new products are AWS Outposts and Google Anthos; they follow Microsoft’s equivalent Azure Stack, which has been on the market since late 2017.

    These product launches mark a great development for the IT community, making it easier to manage and maintain hybrid cloud solutions. By offering products that let businesses use the same administration and control tools across public cloud and on-premise environments, they are simplifying the management of IT infrastructure and unifying IT teams.

    For the public cloud providers, it is also an acknowledgment the hybrid cloud is the future and here to stay. The narrative of a public-cloud only future is making way for hybrid cloud realities, and these moves indicate that Amazon, Microsoft, and Google also want a piece of the pie for the growing hybrid cloud industry. These moves make strategic sense for the major cloud providers, and they point to increased ease of use when managing a hybrid cloud architecture.

  • What are AWS, Azure, and GCP offering with these products?

  • The end goal of these three products is essentially the same – to allow customers to use the same IT and development environments for both their public cloud and on-premise instances. In the ideal state, this means that most workloads are portable and agnostic to the environment where the computation is happening.

    Of the three offerings, only Microsoft’s Azure Stack is live in market – AWS Outposts and Google Anthos were both announced with great fanfare and are scheduled to launch later in 2019. Still, the products are exciting for what they mean in terms of commitment to and support of hybrid cloud architecture. They are poised to make a great impact in cloud infrastructure services when they launch.

  • What does all of this mean?

  • All three of these current and anticipated product offerings let users take advantage of the hybrid cloud model outside of the public cloud for data sovereignty or latency reasons. They rely on a consistent hybrid application development model—they offer the same tools, processes, and SDK, as well as consistent administration and control tools. By using any one of the three, your business can create a united data storage team. There would be no division of skills for public cloud and on-premise, and your business could deliver purpose-built integrated systems. Forget about the complications of putting someone else’s infrastructure on one’s own internal network—businesses now have the ability to get a “cloud in a box.”

    From a business strategy perspective, these public cloud vendors may be focusing incrementally on a hybrid cloud capability to grab at the edge computing opportunity. In parallel, the cloud vendors may also be preparing for an expansion of the cloud to be a more standardized abstraction of owned and rented resources.

    Each of these major players has slightly different reasons for entering the market based on their current strengths and weaknesses, and these are reflected in the timing and details of their hybrid cloud offerings. For Amazon, the motivation to launch this product may be fueled by an attempt to build a bulwark against multi-cloud and maintain a massive lead in market share, as some of its customers outgrow a public-cloud-only model. For Microsoft, launching direct service hybrid cloud infrastructure always made sense for the brand, given their enterprise focus and client-base that have many on-premise deployments. And for Google, as the late announcer and distant third in public cloud market share, it makes sense that they will create an on-premise solution that can run on existing hardware and manage other public cloud deployments, as multi-cloud will benefit the growth of their cloud business and they have more ground to cover. That these three cloud giants are all now leaning in and pushing data storage together is something to take note of, and a harbinger of what’s to come for the data center industry.

    Any way you slice it, hybrid cloud management has become an important category in the cloud market, due to a mix of on-prem and cloud assets that enterprises have built up over the years. While a large set of enterprises still need to fully embrace the concept of cloud, it is clear that the reality of hybrid cloud storage has already fully set in at public cloud players.

  • What are AWS Outposts?

  • Amazon’s offering, AWS Outposts, bring native AWS services and infrastructure to any data center or colocation space. When it launches, Outposts will allow businesses to use the same IT and development environments for public cloud and private cloud. Previously, this was not possible with AWS on hybrid cloud solutions. Additionally, AWS can extend the same software, services, infrastructure and deployment models to these businesses that they already use on AWS. It can put hardware in their native environments that is effectively the same as AWS hardware. In essence, these businesses are getting from AWS Outposts the same kind of hardware as what AWS uses for their own data centers. Outposts will connect companies to their nearest AWS region, using either Vmware control plane and APIs or AWS-native variants—depending on the company’s preference—and the companies will then have access to compute and storage on-premises or in a colo. AWS will deliver racks directly to its customers, and will also offer installation and maintenance if desired.

  • What is Google Anthos?

  • Google announced its hybrid cloud infrastructure offering, Anthos, as the evolution of their Cloud Services Platform to let companies build and manage hybrid applications across environments. Google Anthos works through its proprietary Google Kubernetes Engine, and in your data center via GKE On-Prem, to provide containerized infrastructure and microservices management to legacy or colocated servers. It will let you launch an app from any location “simply, flexibly, and securely.” Anthos lets businesses run their applications without modification on private hardware, or via the public cloud. In essence, it takes advantage of the cloud’s flexibility—even offering hybrid and multi-cloud environments—without locking you into a single cloud partner. It does all this by using GKE on-prem to bring Google’s cloud services to a customer’s data center, working with an open-source service mesh for moving applications to a microservices architecture. It containerizes legacy applications to make them portable and accessible, creating pathways to safely store and access them via the cloud, and runs on customer hardware with support for mainstream original equipment manufacturers. In short, Anthos’ goal is to provide customers with options to modernize their legacy applications on old hardware—options that offer increased workload portability.

  • What is Microsoft Azure Stack?

  • With Outposts and Anthos, Amazon and Google now join Microsoft in the competitive hybrid cloud marketplace. Microsoft has been offering Azure Stack since 2017, which also lets customers use Azure cloud software to manage owned infrastructure. Azure Stack enables customers to run Azure workloads on-premise, or within a colocation facility. It gives businesses control over their data and applications, with access to a single management platform for public Azure cloud infrastructure and their Azure stack. In contrast to AWS Outposts, Azure is not offering hardware but is instead partnering with OEMs for it. Azure Stack is offered as integrated hardware and software package, with the Azure platform pre-installed on specific hardware. In addition to this, Microsoft’s model allows customers to take advantage of the Azure application model on a private cloud. It is worth noting, however, that Microsoft certified hardware is necessary to use and benefit from Azure.

  • Summary

  • The need to manage disparate cloud assets (owned servers, public cloud, and potentially multi-cloud), along with the ensuing complexity in managing them, has led to the rise of hybrid cloud management solutions or system integration services for multiple clouds—private and/or public. And this is to say nothing of how startups that were born on the public cloud that are now reaching a scale where hybrid cloud computing makes more sense to them, as they shift their focus from growing revenue to expanding their margins with cost efficiencies. From wherever a business approaches the matter, choosing the right hybrid cloud platform is becoming a bigger and bigger decision to weigh. But with these three exciting hybrid cloud products to choose from, businesses now have more choices than ever before.

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