Trending: Azure vs. AWS for startups: Microsoft’s top marketing exec explains its strategy in the cloud
AWS CEO Andy Jassy (left) and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger introduce AWS Outposts at re:Invent 2018. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

LAS VEGAS – The hybrid cloud has become an essential part of enterprise computing, and Amazon Web Services has decided to bring the cloud to its customers’ data centers.

Starting next year, AWS will allow customers to order the same hardware that it uses to power its cloud services to run in their own data centers through a service called AWS Outposts. Building on its partnership with VMware, AWS Outposts will allow customers to enjoy a consistent set of hardware, software and services across their own servers and cloud servers, said AWS CEO Andy Jassy.

Jassy was joined on stage by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger to reveal the new service, which will also come with VMware-designed software that helps blend the two operating environments. It will be available in 2019.

“Most of the world is virtualized on top of VMware, and VMware is part of most enterprises,” Jassy said in a press conference after his marathon three-hour keynote.

Customers will have two options: they can run VMware Cloud on AWS on AWS Outposts, or they can run something called “AWS native” to enable this hybrid cloud setup. AWS will “deliver racks, install them, and then we’ll do all the maintenance and repair on them,” Jassy said.

An overview of how AWS Outposts will work. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

A lot of the details surrounding AWS Outposts are still a little unclear, such as exactly which hardware configurations will be offered.

AWS said that customers using the “AWS native” edition will be able to run several different types of EC2 compute instances using Outposts and use Elastic Block Storage for data storage. Other AWS services, such as its ECS container-management service and its AWS SageMaker machine-learning service, will be available “at launch or in the months after,” the company said in an overview page on its site.

But this represents a big shift in thinking about the public cloud infrastructure market pioneer, which even just a few years ago was evangelizing the end of the on-premises data center and the benefits of being all-in on AWS’s cloud. Turns out that it is much harder for companies with decades of investments in information technology to change that setup than many people expected, and CIOs at those companies are conservative folks who don’t want to unleash chaos on their users while trying to deal with new technologies and new services.

“We … have a number of customers who say, ‘look, while most of my applications can and will move (to the cloud), there are some of my applications that just can’t or wont easily move,'” Jassy said in the press conference. Companies with applications where keeping latency as low as possible is critical are one example, he said, citing factories.

We got a hint this might be coming earlier this year following a report that AWS planned to challenge Cisco in the “white box” networking switch market. But AWS Outposts is a far larger undertaking involving servers and storage, and would appear to compete more with hyperconverged infrastructure players like Nutanix.

Google and Nutanix announced a partnership last year around similar types of capabilities, and Microsoft offers its Azure Stack product through partnerships with server vendors for companies that want to run Azure on inside their own data centers. And even Oracle offers a product called Oracle Cloud at Customer, although to date Oracle’s cloud products are not competitive with the bigger players.

But Outposts will be attractive to customers that have already invested a lot of time and money into VMware, as the partnership with the longtime virtualization software provider continues to pay dividends for AWS.

“Our objective and why we’re partnering in this way is to make all of those (infrastructure) choices seamless and invisible to the customer,” Gelsinger said in the press conference.

(Editor’s note: This post was updated several times as more information became available, and later to clarify which AWS services would be available on AWS Outposts at launch.)

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline

Comments

Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.