AWS Outposts is a fully managed service from Amazon Web Services that extends AWS infrastructure, services, APIs, and tools to virtually any datacenter, co-location space, or on-premises facility for a truly consistent hybrid experience. Introduced in 2018, AWS Outposts is designed to provide a consistent hybrid experience by enabling customers to use the same AWS infrastructure, services, APIs, and tools across on-premises and the AWS cloud.
The video below is Amazon’s quick explanation of how their AWS Outposts service can bring the infrastructure, services, APIs, and tools of AWS’ cloud platform to businesses’ on-premise facilities, to create a “hybrid” (cloud + on-premise) experience for development teams.
There are two variants of AWS Outposts – VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts and AWS Native Outposts:
- VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts: This variant lets you use the same VMware technologies in the AWS cloud and on-premises, including VMware vSphere, vSAN, NSX, and vCenter. It’s operated by VMware and integrates with VMware’s software-defined data center (SDDC).
- AWS Native Outposts: This variant provides a range of AWS services, including compute (Amazon EC2), storage (Amazon EBS), databases (Amazon RDS, Amazon DynamoDB), and others on-premises. It’s ideal for workloads that need low latency access to on-premises systems, local data processing, or local data storage.
Hybrid Cloud Product Comparison
The chart below compares AWS Outposts with alternative hybrid cloud (sometimes called “on-premise cloud” or “cloud at the edge”) alternatives to AWS Outposts, including Google Anthos, Azure Stack, IBM Cloud Satellite, and Oracel Cloud at Customer. Included in the chart are some of the most critical criteria for deciding between hybrid cloud products.
Key Benefits of AWS Outpost
- Consistency: Outposts enables you to use the same APIs, tools, hardware, and functionality across on-premises and cloud environments, reducing the complexity of managing and operating applications in a hybrid environment.
- Reduced Latency: By placing AWS services and infrastructure closer to the applications that require low-latency access to on-premises systems, AWS Outposts can help improve user experiences and enhance performance.
- Flexibility: Outposts offers flexibility by providing a range of instance types and storage options that you can use to run your applications.
- Seamless Integration: It integrates seamlessly with AWS’s broad array of services available in the cloud to augment your on-premises workloads with analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML).
Use Cases for AWS Outpost
- Healthcare: Hospitals and healthcare providers often need to process patient data locally due to latency requirements and regulatory constraints. AWS Outposts allows them to use AWS services on-premises to process and store sensitive patient data securely while also having the ability to leverage additional services like AI/ML for analytics in the cloud.
- Manufacturing: In manufacturing, systems like robotic assembly lines and quality control systems often require low latency. Using AWS Outposts, these manufacturing companies can deploy AWS compute and storage on-premises to effectively support their real-time applications.
- Financial Services: Financial institutions that need to meet strict regulatory requirements for data residency can use AWS Outposts to keep their data on-premises. They can process and store sensitive financial data locally, and use additional AWS services in the cloud for applications that don’t have such restrictions.
- Telecommunications: Telecom companies are leveraging AWS Outposts for applications such as media and entertainment content creation, real-time gaming, and machine learning at the edge of the 5G network.
Why Businesses Use AWS Outpost
- Consistency: AWS Outposts provides a consistent development and deployment experience across on-premises and cloud environments. This consistency simplifies management, reduces operational overhead, and accelerates the rollout of new features and services.
- Reduced Latency: AWS Outposts are physically located on-premises, which eliminates network latency between the application and the compute and storage resources it uses. This is crucial for applications that require real-time responses.
- Regulatory Compliance: For businesses that operate in industries with strict regulatory compliance standards around data sovereignty and privacy, AWS Outposts allows them to keep their sensitive data on-premises while still benefiting from AWS’s infrastructure.
- Integration: Outposts seamlessly integrates with AWS services in the cloud, making it easy for businesses to leverage AWS’s broad array of services for areas such as analytics, AI, and machine learning.
Who Uses AWS Outposts?
AWS Outposts is used by many different enterprise corporations to handle their hybrid cloud needs. Here are a few examples:
- Philips: Philips, a leading health technology company, uses AWS Outposts for its HealthSuite System of Engagement. This platform connects consumers, patients, and healthcare providers to deliver health information in real time, and it leverages AWS Outposts to support applications that require low latency, data residency, and local data processing.
- Volkswagen Group: Volkswagen uses AWS Outposts for its Industrial Cloud. This solution brings together real-time data from all the Volkswagen Group’s 124 manufacturing plants to optimize system-wide production and improve efficiency.
- Morningstar, Inc.: Morningstar, a global financial services firm, uses AWS Outposts for its Direct Cloud platform. This platform needs to operate on low-latency networks to provide real-time financial data and insights to investors.
Criticisms of AWS Outposts
While AWS Outposts is a popular and viable hybrid cloud solution for many scenarios, there are some legitimate criticisms that keep others from using the service to implement a hybrid cloud architecture. Here are some of the most common criticisms of AWS Outposts.
- Cost: AWS Outposts can be quite expensive, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. The hardware itself comes with a high upfront cost, and there are ongoing costs for the AWS services that run on that hardware. While it can be cost-effective for businesses with specific needs (like low-latency processing), for many businesses the cost benefits of the public cloud are more attractive.
- Limited Service Availability: As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, not all AWS services are available on Outposts. This means that some applications and workloads that rely on certain AWS services may not be fully compatible with Outposts.
- Vendor Lock-In: AWS Outposts strengthens the reliance on AWS, making it harder to switch to another cloud provider in the future. While this might not be a problem for businesses already deeply invested in the AWS ecosystem, it could deter those who value flexibility and the ability to avoid vendor lock-in.
- Complexity: While AWS Outposts simplifies some aspects of running a hybrid cloud, it can also introduce new complexities. It requires careful planning and management to integrate Outposts into an existing IT infrastructure and to manage it effectively.
- Overkill for Some Use Cases: AWS Outposts is a powerful and flexible solution, but for many businesses, it may simply be more than they need. Many applications and workloads can run effectively in the public cloud without the need for on-premises infrastructure.