The public cloud can come to your private data center, here’s how

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Azure Stack Hub, AWS Outpost, Google Anthos and IBM Cloud Satellite, to name four, can all bring their public cloud power to your private office.

Image: Getty Images/iStockPhoto, sigoisette

We talk a lot about hybrid clouds these days. It all boils down to combining the compute and storage goodness of public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure with the blessing of having a private cloud, your own hardware in your own server rooms or data center running a cloud software stack. In practice, that’s hard to do. There is one simple way. That’s to use the same cloud stack both on your public cloud and in the happy confines of your own offices.

And how do you do that exactly? By using public cloud software and hardware in your space. Specifically, these are offerings such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) Outpost, Microsoft Azure Stack Hub, Google Anthos or IBM Cloud Satellite.

Now, there are other ways of building hybrid clouds. For example, you can use a public cloud based on OpenStack with your own OpenStack servers. Examples of these include Rackspace OpenStack Public Cloud, Open Telekom Cloud and CT Cloud Platform. Or, there’s my particular favorite: A hybrid-cloud based on Kubernetes. There are many examples of these including Red Hat OpenShift, Cloud Foundry and VMware Tanzu. But, all these have one big problem in common. It’s hard to set them up and to manage them.

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Don’t get me wrong. It can be done, and the rewards can be worthwhile. But, and it’s a big but, you really need to have people on your staff who know OpenStack or Kubernetes inside and out. And, in case you haven’t ever tried to hire someone like that, they are few and far between and, oh yes, very expensive.

That’s where Outpost, Azure Stack, Google Anthos and, most recently, IBM Cloud Satellite come in. Each of them is essentially an extension of their public cloud offering into your own office. They all, of course, have their own take. Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect from each one.

With AWS Outpost, AWS provides a fully managed service. AWS drops off pre-configured hardware and software to your on-premise data center or co-location space. As AWS CEO Andy Jassy said when it was introduced: “Customers will order racks with the same hardware AWS uses in all of our regions, with software with AWS services on it.”

These services include EC2 instances, EBS storage volumes, Amazon ECS, Amazon EKS clusters for container-based applications and on and on. That’s a lot of AWS services, but why bother when, after all, you can get all those and more from the closest AWS region? The answer is speed. You want Outpost when your users or your equipment need single-digit millisecond latency.

Azure Stack Hub, on the other hand, can be run on servers from partners, such as HPE, Dell EMC or Lenovo. And, yes, if you have the right gear, Microsoft, or one of its partners, can install Azure on the hardware you already own. 

While, yes, Stack Hub, like all the others, is faster than using the Azure public cloud, the name of the game here is enabling you to scale your jobs. Do you have an operation that requires hundreds or thousands of virtual machines (VM)? Then run it on the Azure cloud. Got one that requires dozens? Run it on Stack Hub. Got one that varies a lot. Say oodles during the workweek and not much at all on the weekend, move the job from public to on-premise as your needs require.

Google Anthos? It’s a production version of the Kubernetes approach. After all, Kubernetes is the direct descendent of Google Borg. In short, Google knows Kubernetes, and you can let them worry about it. Like Stack Hub, Anthos isn’t picky about its hardware, and you can run it on your existing Dell EMC, HPE, Intel and Lenovo racks.

Finally, IBM Cloud Satellite extends its Public Cloud control plane to hardware running in your data center or server rooms. It’s a fully vendor-managed hybrid cloud. The special sauce that IBM will be bringing is that besides the first two services it brings to the plate, Cloud Pak for Data and OpenShift as a Service, the company plans to offer third-party software applications on Cloud Satellite.

This is still a work in progress, but if you’re in the telecom or banking business you’ll be interested in knowing that Lumen Technologies and Portworx, who are 5G players, and F5, which is in the banking vertical space will both be playing. And, need I add, those are applications that need single-digit millisecond speeds to work and play well in their edge computing space.

Get the picture? All of these make it easy to use most, but far from all, their public cloud offering with much better latency. Only you can answer which one will best serve your needs. But, I can assure you, one or the other of them may be exactly what your company needs to succeed as the intersection of cloud and edge computing becomes more important to most businesses.

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