By the end of the last decade, major public cloud providers have a clearly defined hybrid cloud solution in the market. So, it would be the right time to evaluate the different approaches taken by Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform.
Hybrid cloud is an IT strategy for enterprises that involves operating part of workloads across different infrastructure environments, whether on major public cloud providers, a private cloud, or on-premise, typically with a proprietary orchestration layer at the top. Multi-cloud is a similar concept but tends not to involve private cloud or on-premise infrastructure.
This strategy is especially crucial for organizations with plenty of applications that need to live on-premise for the time being, for instance, low-latency applications on a factory floor, or those with data residency concerns.
As per RightScale State of the Cloud report 2019, hybrid cloud is the most popular strategy among enterprises; 58% of respondents stated that it is their preferred approach while 17% opt for multiple public clouds, and just 10% opt for a single public cloud provider.
A hybrid cloud approach has a lot to offer; it includes the ability to diversify spending and skills and build flexibility. It provides the allowance to pick and choose the features and capabilities based on the vendor’s strength, all this while avoiding the dreading vendor lock-in.
In the best interest of the public cloud provider, customers run everything in the public cloud. Still, they are increasingly aware that customers don’t always want to operate this way, and thus, they providing more flexible options to accommodate that fact.
Here is our take on the major vendor’s options for running hybrid.
Microsoft Azure Stack
With its well-established Azure Stack, which was available in technical preview as long ago as January 2016, Microsoft has been the go-to choice for hybrid deployments amongst the big three.
It enables consumers to access different Azure cloud services from their own data center and, potentially, encourages the transition to the cloud for highly regulated or cautious organizations. You can build applications for Azure cloud and deploy either on Microsoft cloud infrastructure or within the walls of your own datacenters without rewriting code.
Last year, at the Ignite conference, Microsoft announced the technical preview of Azure Arc. A multi-cloud management layer that extends Azure Stack essentially to other public cloud platforms, including AWS and GCP. The idea is to provide users a single pane for all the apps and services regardless of where they sit.
In a blog post, Azure corporate vice president Julia White wrote, “Enterprises rely on a hybrid technology approach to take advantage of their on-premises investment and, at the same time, utilize cloud innovation.” He also added, “As more business operations and applications expand to include edge devices and multiple clouds, hybrid capabilities must enable apps to run seamlessly across on-premises, multi-cloud, and edge devices while providing consistent management and security across all distributed locations.”
Under the covers, Azure Stack is referred to as Azure Stack Hub by the vendors. It brings a set of services for customers’ data centers; it includes virtual machines, storage, networking, VPN gateways, and load balancing, as well as platform services like functions, containers, and databases, and identity services like an active directory.
The Azure Stack can be used on hardware from many partner vendors, such as HPE, Dell EMC, Cisco, Huawei, and Lenovo. It is priced in the same flexible manner as Azure public cloud, so you’ll pay for what you use, starting from $0.008 per virtual CPU per hour, but you’ll be partnered with Microsoft for software support and hardware support with a chosen vendor.
AWS signaled about its major step into hybrid deployment at its re:Invent conference in 2018 with the launch of Outposts. It is a fully managed service where Amazon provides pre-configured hardware and software to the customer’s on-premises data centers or co-location space to run their applications in a cloud-native manner, without operating from AWS data centers.
AWS CEO, Andy Jassy explained, “Customers will order racks with the same hardware AWS uses in all of our regions, with software with AWS services on it – like compute and storage – and then you can work in two variants.”
Those two options are: run VMware Cloud on AWS, or compute and storage on-premises while using the same native AWS APIs used in the AWS cloud.
Currently, users are allowed to configure their Outpost with multiple types of EC2 instances and EBS volumes for their storage. When the service is made generally available in the latter half of 2019, Outposts will support Amazon ECS and Amazon EKS clusters for container-based applications, Amazon EMR clusters for data analytics, and Amazon RDS instances for relational database services. While Amazon Sagemaker, machine learning toolkit, and Amazon MSK for streaming data applications will be available after the launch.
Through a blog post published in 2019, Matt Garman, VP of AWS compute services provided some insights about the project and highlighted some of the general use cases they have seen so far; it includes the interest the customers from multiple domains like manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, media and entertainment, and telecom industries.
Read next: AWS Outposts: All You Need To Know
Garman wrote, “One of the most common scenarios is applications that need single-digit millisecond latency to end-users or onsite equipment.” He added, “Customers may need to run compute-intensive workloads on their manufacturing factory floors with precision and quality. Others have graphics-intensive applications such as image analysis that need low-latency access to end-users or storage-intensive workloads that collect and process hundreds of TBs of data a day.”
Amazon Outposts is now generally available, and it went live on 3rd December of 2019.
Google Cloud Anthos
In 2018, Google cloud surprised everyone when they announced the general availability of Anthos: a new platform that promises the ability to run applications on-premise, in the Google Cloud, and, most importantly, with other major public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
Under the hod, Anthos is a composition of Google’s Kubernetes Engine (GKE), GKE On-Prem, and the Anthos Config Management console for unified administration, policies, and security across hybrid kubernetes deployments. It is agnostic to hardware and can be installed on existing client servers or VMware, Dell EMC, HPE, Intel and Lenovo racks.
The most significant difference here is the interoperability and credibility in open source in a very traditional Google style. Through a blog post, the search engine giant mentioned that Anthos would allow managing all the workloads that you are running on third-party clouds like AWS and Azure, it offers you the freedom to deploy, run and manage your application on the cloud of your choice. Moreover, administrators and developers don’t need to learn new environments and APIs to use it. Into this, Thomas Kurian added, “Today, if you talk to Azure, they will say you can run Azure Stack on-premise, and on the cloud, Amazon will say you can run Outposts on-premise and in the AWS cloud. They are fine companies, but they’re not solving the multi-cloud problem.”
McQuire of CSS insight said: “With the arrival of Anthos, and in particular, its support of open source, particularly Kubernetes, Google is now taking a much more realistic path in meeting customers where they are on their cloud journeys and is aiming to become the standard in hybrid, multi-cloud services in this next phase of the cloud market.”
Google will charge the Anthos users’ on a monthly subscription with a minimum of a one-year commitment. It is then priced at incremental blocks of 100 vCPUs, starting at $10,000 per block regardless of the location of the workload.
Oracle Cloud at Customer
Oracle’s business of Infrastructure as a Service may not be booming, but it has provided a hybrid option for customers a long time ago and named as Cloud at Customer.
It was launched back in 2016, the service puts together cloud computing and platform resources, such as database, Big Data, and App development, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications such as Customer Relationship Management ( CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning ( ERP) and Human Capital Management (HCM), into customer-owned data centers.
Oracle offers converged Oracle hardware, software-defined storage, and management tools for customers to run applications. Before implementing everything on-site and managing cloud services, the company asks for data center floor space, networking, and power, complete with regular upgrades.
The only difference we find is that Oracle urges customers to sign a more long-term deal-a minimum of
three to four years to account for the capital spending involved in shipping and installing dedicated hardware.
Vice-President of product management at Oracle, Mr. Nirav Mehta describes the service as if “Oracle Cloud stretched from our data center to the customer, so the same stack but all the data lives at the customer site.”
He added, “We go into size, build, ship, deploy and manage the software, so we go in for a turnkey deployment. “
Oracle says the service has proven successful with consumers in the public sector, including the UK government, as well as in financial services. Bank of America and AT&T are two clients eager to be called.
IBM’s shift towards being a hybrid cloud vendor was an utterly strategic move, starting with the acquisition of an open-source Linux company Red Hat for $33 billion in 2018.
At the time of the acquisition, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty stated, “IBM will become the world’s number-one hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.”
Though it’s still early, but IBM clearly wants to be an independent partner for customers who want to run hybrid, multi-cloud environments with a set of tools and services. They aim to help businesses in migration, integration, and the management of applications; moreover, handle the workloads more seamlessly and with security across any public, private cloud and on-premise IT environment.
To be precise, it includes the new IBM cloud Integration Platform to assist in operating cloud services across cloud and on-premise environments under a secure operating model and toolset. Being a container-based platform allows quick portability of data and applications across Infrastructure and aligns API management, events, and enterprise messaging.
On the service aspect of the business, IBM seems to be aligning all of its consulting and sales team in advising customers on how to build the right holistic cloud approach from planning, deployment, migration, road mapping, and architectural tools to guide in their cloud journey.
An early reference client for this is Santander Bank, which announced that it will invest $700 million over the next five years to position IBM as “one of the key technology partners of the Santander Group – helping Banco Santander in the execution of its hybrid cloud strategy.”
According to a press release, IBM supports the bank with its “methodologies and processes to accelerate that transformation journey. Moreover, the bank uses a range of technologies, including IBM DevOps solutions and IBM API Connect, aimed to develop, iterate, and launch new or upgraded applications and digital services much quicker.”
Of course, there are other options as well outside the big cloud vendors that can help customers run hybrid as well, like Cisco CloudCenter or VMware vCloud Suite and Tanzu, which was launched last year to help customers embrace Kubernetes and run applications across a wide range of infrastructural options.
OpenStack is one more choice that comes to mind. With the open-source option, consumers will cross the gap between various cloud services and hardware vendors. However, to do so requires some pretty good knowledge, skills, and experience within the organization.