Amazon has started shipping its Outpost offering. For those that haven’t heard about AWS Outpost it is a complete rack solution which allows you to run Amazon services within your own datacenter.
Essentially Amazon ships a rack of servers which you can then insert into your own enviroment and connect it to your own network. Outpost comes with two Top-of-Rack (ToR) switches called Outposts Network Devices (ONDs). The two Outpost Network Devices, Outpost Network Device 1 and Outpost Network Device 2, are connected to two access switches in the customer data-center network with a Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) port channel of multiple member links. Layer-3 connectivity is established over VLAN SVI interfaces or Layer-3 subinterfaces with 802.01q encapsulation over the port channel. Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing runs over the Layer-3 links between AWS Outposts and the customers data-center network. The Outpost can be ordered directly from the AWS portal.
When it comes to high-availability, customers can also deploy multiple Outposts at a site, each tied to a different Availability Zone for even higher availability. Which means that each Outpost is its own fault domain, you can however group up to 16 racks into a single capacity pool. As of now the following services are available on Outpost:
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, Amazon ECS, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service, and Amazon EMR, with additional services in the works. Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL and Amazon RDS for MySQL are available in preview form. S3 coming in preview next year.
From an management perspective, you can use the AWS management console to setup services, monitoring and such. Now this is similair to what AWS has been doing with their RDS on VMware solution and also what Google has been doing with their Anthos offering to be able to provide the same consistent management plane.
It is important to remember that because of this integration, Outpost relies on connectivity to the parent AWS Region. Outposts are not designed for disconnected operations or environments with limited to no connectivity. With Outpost you can also extend your VPC where you have seperate subnets running on Outposts.
Now this is similar to what Microsoft is delivering with their Azure Stack Hub, which has been in the market for two years now. Now unlike AWS, Microsoft did a different approach when it comes to how they deliver support, hardware and also how it handles management. You can read more here about the underlying architecture of Azure Stack Hub –> https://msandbu.org/azure-stack-in-depth-architecture/
First of Azure Stack Hub is built upon Windows Server and Storage Spaces Direct combined with Hyper-V underneath as the foundation for the platform and also that Azure Stack Hub comes with a similiar management plane as Azure does, but it is seperated which allows us to use Azure Stack Hub is a disconnected scenario unlike Outpost. Second thing is that Microsoft is not bundling it with its own hardware, but relying upon OEM to deliver their rack, running on a set of certified hardware. Since Azure Stack Hub is also for more disconnected scenarioes, it requires more operator work in order to setup the different service offerings, updates and management (storage accounts and such)
As it is now, Outposts and Azure Stack Hub are similiar in terms of local processing but that Hub is more usecases towards disconnected scenarios. However I do belive that have the same management plane across on-premises and cloud is the right approach moving forward. One thing to that however is that Outposts is still fairly new, so it will be interesting to see how proactive AWS is in terms of support and how well managed the outposts instances are.
So I’ve added this short table to display the main differences between the two offerings.
Now a big difference is also the price difference between the two solutions, which I’m working a bit on and will update this article once I have the complete picture.