Is Amazon coming around on hybrid clouds? For years, the company behind public cloud juggernaut Amazon Web Services has openly encouraged its customers to move away from on-premises infrastructure, and some of them have had good reason to do so.
The continually falling prices of AWS speak in part to the rising efficiency of Amazon's operations, and they have fueled enormous growth as more organizations tap into AWS' highly scalable resources and unique ecosystem. AWS may even be the fasting growing software in history.
But as AWS matures and the cloud as a whole moves from hype to reality for dev/test teams, Amazon's approach to hybrid cloud has also changed. Many enterprises have significant assets that cannot be migrated to public infrastructure in the short term or possibly ever. Plus, just as there are rational grounds for ditching the server closet for AWS instances, there are advantages to controlling critical parts of one's IT destiny by using a private or hybrid cloud.
Amazon Getting into the Hybrid Cloud Game
It wasn't long ago that Amazon promoted services like its virtual desktops as modern alternatives to private cloud. Why it has changed course is unclear, although one could surmise that:
- Competition has picked up: AWS is still the clear leader in public cloud, but both Microsoft and Google are heavily invested in IaaS and are in it for the long haul. AWS-specific hybrid functionality helps differentiate the platform.
- Enterprises are interested in using both AWS and private cloud: Hybrid cloud is fast becoming the leading cloud deployment model among businesses of all sizes. Meeting previously risk-averse customers halfway has become critical.
- AWS is the ideal platform for hybrid cloud: AWS API compatibility makes it possible for IT to connect their systems to the heart of AWS. Users can get access to utilities like the Identity and Access Management and also use AWS for bursting, so that it handles spikes in demand by supplying extra capacity.
Amazon has worked on private clouds before, including a project for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. While it has a reputation for being the backbone of countless consumer-facing startups, AWS is just as integral to established, security-minded organizations that require on-demand resources for vast suites of applications.
"Hybrid [cloud] is quickly becoming a focal point of AWS' strategy as the business moves into the enterprise market," wrote Jillian Mirandi, researcher at Technology Business Review. "With tools such as Amazon VPC, AWS Direct Connect and AWS Data Pipeline, customers are able to more easily extend on-premises IT through AWS. We believe that the majority of AWS revenue is driven by large enterprise clients, making it critical for AWS to invest in hybrid IT options."
AWS and Private Cloud Doesn't Have to be Either/or
The evolving Amazon strategy demonstrates what many firms and their respective vendors already felt - that using a private cloud need not preclude getting value from AWS. Open source software in particular has been instrumental to bridging the gap between the company data center and Amazon's facilities.
With the right solution, it's possible to move workloads between environments based on security, compliance and performance criteria. The predictable cost and power of on-premises appliances enables economical, efficient dev/test, while the scalability of AWS means that adapting to new requirements or spikes in demand is less taxing.
Many organizations are answering the "public or private cloud?" question with "both." A 2014 RightScale report found that 58 percent of the 1,000 IT professionals it surveyed were using a hybrid cloud, underscoring Amazon's intelligence in pivoting to this market.