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What's in AWS Outposts with VMware?

AWS Outposts, the new on-premises hybrid cloud, includes a VMware Cloud version that is not expected to provide NSX as a native option for connecting to the AWS public cloud.

AWS has made a significant move into the hybrid cloud and is taking partner VMware along for the ride.

At its re:Invent conference this week, AWS introduced compute and storage racks consisting of the public cloud provider's hardware and software. The systems, called AWS Outposts, would go into the private data centers of AWS subscribers, providing easier portability between on-premises and cloud workloads.

AWS plans two flavors of AWS Outposts: one with only AWS software and the other with VMware Cloud on AWS. The AWS-only version is scheduled to ship at the start of next year, while the latter version, which lets companies use the same controls to run VMware-virtualized workloads on the data center and AWS, won't be available until the second half of the year.

Missing from the VMware version of Outposts is NSX, the network virtualization platform typically used to connect VMware Cloud on AWS with private data centers. Rather than require companies to use VMware-supplied connectivity, AWS plans to provide "native capabilities that are part of the AWS environment," said Eric Hanselman, an analyst at 451 Research.

What that likely means is Outposts out of the box will work natively with gateways and VPNs connecting to AWS through the cloud provider's Direct Connect technology, Hanselman said. Companies that want to use NSX will have to deploy it separately.

On its website, AWS said companies with Layer 2 on-premises networking can use NSX to connect Outposts' resources to network topologies and legacy applications in the data center.

Whether using NSX or another form of connectivity, companies should expect challenges in linking to AWS, Hanselman said. "There's a networking and interconnection component that's a step beyond what I think a lot of enterprises consider."

VMware versus Cisco in hybrid cloud

AWS' approach to hybrid cloud is similar to Microsoft's Azure Stack and Oracle Cloud at Customer, analysts said. The VMware version is more comparable to the Cisco Hybrid Cloud Platform for Google Cloud.

Cisco and VMware are battling each other in trying to get data center customers -- many of which use both vendors' products -- to use their respective technologies to connect to public clouds.

The hybrid cloud offerings differ in that VMware is focused more on providing a single management console for the data center and AWS environments, while Cisco is directing its attention to the interconnect to Google Cloud, Hanselman said.

Whether an enterprise goes with VMware and AWS or Cisco and Google Cloud will likely depend on who in the organization is making the buying decision, Hanselman said. The networking side of IT would favor Cisco's interconnect, while the computing and software infrastructure teams would likely prefer VMware.

"This is the state that we're in today," Hanselman said. "We've got a whole set of shifting buying centers."

As a result, it's difficult to predict which IT department will choose the next-generation infrastructure purchase.

Meanwhile, enterprises also have the option of skipping a public cloud provider's one-to-one hybrid connection and choosing a multi-cloud integration option, such as Cisco CloudCenter and Juniper Networks' Contrail Enterprise Multicloud.

"Each [of the many options] has a role to play and value to confer in a world where hybrid IT and multi-cloud increasingly predominate," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.

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