AWS EKS Anywhere: Amazon’s bid for hybrid cloud supremacy

Hybrid cloud has become a trendy term. Public clouds are still being adopted at a tremendous rate. However, several organizations, hesitant to migrate to the private cloud due to security or cost-related reasons, have started gravitating to the hybrid cloud. A hybrid cloud is, more or less, a middle ground. Organizations can leverage their private clouds running inside their datacenters and occasionally use compute, storage, and networking resources offered by one or more public clouds of the organization’s liking. This kind of infrastructure has a plethora of benefits. AWS has announced EKS Anywhere aimed at enabling organizations to easily run hybrid cloud setups and manage them via AWS. Let’s look at why hybrid cloud matters, and how EKS Anywhere solves the biggest hybrid cloud challenges.

Benefits of hybrid cloud

Organizations can host sensitive workloads on their private clouds and use the public cloud when the need arises. With the help of APIs, organizations can move their workloads seamlessly across the hybrid cloud’s logical plane. During spikes in requests, the public cloud can be leveraged to run compute operations. This makes infrastructure quite robust and flexible. Workloads can be moved to and from private and public cloud environments in case of an outage to ensure business continuity. Hybrid cloud infrastructure helps manage costs more effectively by allowing organizations to pick strategies to run extensive workloads. Compute heavy operations can be performed on the public cloud on a pay-as-you-go model instead of hosting them in a private cloud.

Security is often a big concern for organizations, and with large workloads, it becomes crucial to secure data and resources from attacks. Organizations can host sensitive data, sanitize it in their private clouds, and send it to the public clouds for activities like big data analytics. Organizations can use the public cloud for disaster recovery and recover workloads when a disaster hits. With the hybrid cloud architecture, organizations can avoid vendor lock-in, which many organizations face. Since the workload can be moved around seamlessly, you can employ a public cloud of your choice and keep on evolving your infrastructure. Another essential benefit of hybrid cloud is its ability to allow you to leverage new technology stacks provided by public clouds that you might not be able to run on your private clouds.

AWS EKS Anywhere

The need for hybrid cloud platforms

Creating a hybrid cloud setup sounds easy on paper. However, it requires plenty of time and expertise. Suppose your organization is planning on migrating to the hybrid cloud. In that case, you need to consider the necessary time and effort to install a virtualization software like OpenStack that will provide your on-premises datacenter, cloud-like capabilities. Then, you will be able to use APIs and services compatible with the public cloud to create a uniform infrastructure. Even then, you can run into errors and expend your budget. To avoid these pitfalls, you should consider hybrid cloud platforms. Public cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform provide hybrid cloud platforms that extend public cloud functionality to the on-premises datacenters. Since both the public and private clouds are a package deal, these platforms are easier to install. The underlying tech for connectivity between public and private cloud resources may vary, but all of these platforms use K8s for orchestrating container-based services.

There is cut-throat competition among hybrid cloud vendors, and the race to dominate the hybrid cloud space is just heating up. Most recently, AWS’s EKS Anywhere has been launched to general availability. This offering is AWS’s response to similar offerings by Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform called Azure Arc and Google Anthos, respectively.

AWS’s hybrid cloud journey

AWS has taken its time to enter the hybrid cloud market. AWS Outpost, introduced in 2018, was the first step in the hybrid cloud direction. Companies could leverage AWS’s compute and data storage services (AWS EC2 and EBS) with their on-premises datacenters with Outposts. However, to do so, they required AWS hardware. It’s clear to see how this wouldn’t have been an ideal solution for many organizations trying to leverage public clouds in tandem with their on-premises datacenters. Cut to 2020, AWS announced AWS EKS Anywhere at its re: invent conference. AWS EKS Anywhere builds on top of EKS Distro and provides customers the ability to leverage Kubernetes on their on-premises datacenters via VMware’s vSphere.

AWS EKS Anywhere was launched to general availability on Sept. 8. EKS Anywhere is an installable software that provides organizations the ability to create and manage K8s clusters anywhere in their hybrid cloud infrastructure. It also comes with automation tools that help with cluster lifecycle support. Technically, EKS Anywhere can be installed on any infrastructure with certain compute, storage, and networking capabilities.

EKS Anywhere clusters can be deployed on-premises and on cloud services like Google Compute Engine and Azure VMs. It relies on GitOps to maintain the integrity of the clusters and the overall workload. EKS Anywhere definitely provides optimized performance with AWS cloud to nudge more people towards EKS Distro. The customizations are also quite limited, but that could change as EKS Anywhere matures.

The race to the top

Hybrid and multicloud offerings are becoming extremely popular, which is why prominent vendors are coming out with more efficient and flexible hybrid cloud platforms. AWS EKS Anywhere was instantly compared to other offerings of the same type. Google Anthos has been around for a while and uses Kubernetes at its core to bring containerized workloads to on-premises. Like AWS EKS Anywhere, Anthos is also very tightly coupled with vSphere and installed bare metal or other cloud offerings. Azure Arc, on the other hand, supports non-Kubernetes edge computing environments.

EKS Anywhere doesn’t come with a single pane of glass to monitor and control EKS-A clusters running in different environments. Since there is no admin or user clusters concept, unlike Anthos, EKS-A has no centralized cluster lifecycle management. Each cluster is independent of others and acts as a standalone Anthos instance on bare metal. However, users can leverage the EKS console to monitor and manage EKS-A clusters.

A big opportunity for Amazon

Amazon EKS Anywhere is a step in the right direction for AWS. They understand the surge in demand for end-to-end hybrid cloud platforms. Even though EKS is quite limited in what it offers compared to Azure Arc and Google Anthos, it still has a good chance of dominating the hybrid cloud space. AWS is the most popular public cloud vendor. With the vast market share it possesses, it’ll be easy for organizations to put their faith in EKS Anywhere. The hybrid cloud space is quite volatile at the moment. With vendors swiftly moving to the hybrid cloud market, innovation will be fast, and the competition will be relentless. Vendors will try to one-up each other by offering better and more features at competitive pricing.

Most IT companies still choose to keep their workloads on their on-prem datacenters. This is an opportunity for public cloud vendors to provide solutions that help organizations leverage cloud-native features without migrating entire workloads onto a public cloud. Instilling a sense of comfort and ease while working with cloud-native features will boost public cloud adoption. The hybrid cloud market is a gold mine ready to be explored.

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