With a planned general release in the second half of 2019, AWS Outposts will be configurable compute and storage racks built with AWS-designed hardware. They will come in two flavours: native AWS, and VMware Cloud on AWS.
Either way, AWS will deliver the pre-built racks to customers, optionally install them, and handle all maintenance and replacement of racks.
Asked whether AWS would be able to employ enough people to handle installation and maintenance, AWS chief executive Andy Jassy said the company was good at streamlining operations and already had data centres in many places that require maintenance. "[We're] very comfortable" with high-volume, low-margin businesses, and have thought about the number of people that will be needed.
Jassy explained the idea for AWS Outposts came from discussions with customers that have applications that cannot be moved to the cloud (perhaps for latency reasons, such as factory systems) but they want on-premises compute and storage elements that are the same as those in the cloud (eg, EC2 and EBS). they also want seamless integration between the two.
In some ways, AWS Outposts resembles Oracle's Cloud@Customer products in that the hardware and software are fully managed by the vendor, but the hardware is located on the customer's premises.
VMware chief executive Pat Gelsinger said VMware Cloud on AWS on AWS Outposts meant customers would be able to build a full on-premises software-defined data centre, all controlled from one console.
Customers who prefer the AWS native experience for AWS Outposts will still be able to integrate with VMware by using VMware Cloud Foundation for EC2, which will incorporate VMware technologies and services such as NSX, AppDefense, and VMware vRealize Automation.
"We are committed to this partnership," said Gelsinger, who suggested that when Outposts ship, it will probably be available through AWS's and VMware's mutual partners.
Jassy said: "[We] started with what our customers were asking for and worked backwards. They told us they want an extension of their AWS or VMware Cloud on AWS environment on-premises, using the same hardware we’re using, the same interfaces, the same APIs, the same instant access to the latest AWS capabilities the minute they become available, and they don’t want to manage hardware or software. So, we tried to reimagine what customers really wanted when running in hybrid mode, and developed AWS Outposts."
He implied that the final decision had yet to be made about exactly which services would be available on Outposts, although he said potential customers consistently wanted compute, storage, analytics and certain other services.
The company is not ready to announce the hardware specifications, as they will depend in part on the services to be delivered. However, Jassy said the hardware elements would be basically the same as those used in AWS Regions.
AWS chief information security officer Steve Schmidt said Outposts included some specific physical security measures, and that the design enforced correct data locality to ensure that data did not move to other locations.
AWS Outposts are currently in private preview.
Disclosure: The writer attended AWS re:Invent as a guest of the company.