Powerful tech firms like Google, Amazon and Microsoft have the benefit of resources to push their own tech forward. However, it is still a competitive market out there even for them. They are competing with each other and now hyper-converged infrastructure platforms are also competing for similar clients.
The Perfect Collision of Public and On-Prem
Sometimes businesses must consider the best of both public and on-prem. On-site or on-prem can tackle specific scenarios of storage, regulatory constraints, latency, and architectural compatibility. There are other advantages, but it is obvious that there is a market for hybrid cloud infrastructure. Big players such as Amazon and Microsoft are responding to this demand and delivering their own hybrid cloud solutions – AWS Outposts and Azure Stack to compete with HCI and protect their territory. If a business requires hybrid, they can get that but within the ecosystem of the public cloud platform. It allows them to extend their tools and features into on-prem and provide for efficient skills, management and troubleshooting.
This proved to be another effective way for Microsoft and AWS to deliver public cloud services to enterprises, whilst also supplying a stable and predictable on-premise cloud environment but creating a vendor lock-in. HCI, on the other hand, approaches the problem by removing the dependency on a single cloud provider.
What is AWS Outposts?
AWS Outposts is Amazon’s way of making their own AWS-based services available for on-premises use and was seen a few years back as a departure from their well-known method: public cloud only. Apart from running AWS on-prem, these services allow customers to extend AWS virtual private clouds into their on-prem environments. What this means is that a single virtual private cloud can rely on resources from the public cloud, as well as the data center. Through it all, you get benefits such as:
- Best of both worlds: low-latency or geographical requirements stay on-prem, and other workloads can run in Amazon cloud. This is one of the biggest advantages and the reason a lot of companies choose hybrid cloud solutions over full-on public cloud.
- Simplifying workloads migration: that’s right, AWS Outposts actually makes things a lot easier when it comes to workloads migration between on-premise and the cloud. Some similar efforts were made in healthcare (check out this PDF), where Outposts provided a consistent environment for running applications in the cloud and on-premises, with simplifying deployment of applications.
What is Microsoft Azure Stack?
It took a bit of time, but Microsoft Azure Stack has grown. It has now evolved into a robust package with several distinct products and services within the suite. Initially, Microsoft launched it as a simplified way of hosting Azure services on premises. Today’s edition of Azure Stack denotes a choice of services:
- Azure Stack Edge (cloud managed appliance) – Enables companies to run managed virtual machine (VM) and container workloads on premises. This is done through Windows Server, although Azure Stack Edge offers the added advantage of managing workloads with a common tool set; no matter where they are running – in the cloud or on prem.
- Azure Stack Hub (cloud-native integrated system) – this service within Azure Stack is used to run cloud applications and handle workloads on premises. Certain businesses wish to remain on premises due to technological and regulatory barriers. Microsoft’s elegant hybrid cloud solution handles workloads, regardless of location.
- Azure Stack HCI (hyper-converged infrastructure) – As the very name suggests, this product is just an edition of Azure Stack running on HCI hardware.
What is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)?
Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) has been evolving for years and is a convergence of compute, networking, and storage infrastructure into a single platform, deployed and managed via a single UI. HCI is an effective way of eliminating some of the disparate manual work during the deployment process. The goal is to be able to deploy a system in a more straightforward process. HCI often removes the burden of requiring specialist team members with unique hardware skills for compute, networking, or storage.
Recently, HCI has been evolving towards public cloud. Vendors have embraced integrations with public cloud providers to offer flexibility of hybrid solutions. Companies now seek HCI to facilitate an effective multi-cloud strategy, thereby reaping the benefits of both worlds. According to this research, these benefits enable companies to reduce their data footprint in the cloud, and decrease cloud costs. It can be valuable for storage persistence across private and hybrid clouds.
In addition, HCI has a proven function as a practical platform for edge computing. For instance, companies like VMWare and Cisco use HCI to bring edge computing architecture closer to users and devices that require it.
AWS Outposts, Azure Stack and HCI – Who Wins?
Azure Stack HCI is now a solid addition to the Azure Stack package. In time, it may turn out to be a competitor against traditional HCI. The primary advantage here is that Azure Stack HCI connects VMs to a variety of Azure cloud services. These services improve the cluster with facets such as cloud-based monitoring, Site Recovery, and VM backups. Additionally, you get a central view of all Azure Stack HCI deployments within the Azure portal. Plus, you can manage the cluster with existing tools (Windows Admin Center, System Center, and PowerShell). Azure Stack HCI also denotes scalability for storage and compute. Briefly, with this product Microsoft may just grab any companies looking to handle the challenges of high-performance workloads.
Meanwhile, Amazon is already allowing data centers to run on the AWS Outposts infrastructure. It is a very sturdy bridge between on-prem services and Amazon public cloud, so it’s only a matter of time before we see it evolve into something even more powerful. We have already seen VMware on AWS Cloud – the highly popular hybrid cloud service, which allows businesses to migrate legacy applications and data to the public cloud (keeping them modernized and fresh).
HCI has its place and it’s bolstered when there are existing capital investments which will swing TCO calculations in its favour. However, this will depend on how you want to map the future of your business. Having any kind of hybrid cloud solution that involves on-premise can initially seem as just the right ticket. However, there are so many variables to take into consideration. Consequently, businesses can go down the road of fast judgment and wrong decision making (especially when we’re talking about cloud migration, and processes like refactoring).
There are so many new and exciting things happening in the cloud market. Before diving into any hefty financial business commitment, you might also want to discover the key differences between the public and private cloud environments.