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AWS OpsWorks reaches into servers, based on Chef

AWS can now manage on-premises servers through its OpsWorks service, but can it get enterprises to buy in?

Amazon Web Services extended its reach further into data centers this week with new support in its OpsWorks product for servers outside its cloud. 

OpsWorks is a service based on the Chef configuration management tool that allows users to programmatically deploy things like operating systems with their desired configuration. With this update, OpsWorks can manage on-premises servers as well as server instances in Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud.

"It's an intriguing idea," said John Treadway, senior vice president with cloud consultancy Cloud Technology Partners, based in Boston. "Undoubtedly some non-regulated small and mid-tier enterprises might give it a go, but I'm skeptical about any larger businesses doing this in the short run."

For large and highly regulated businesses, remote infrastructure management and monitoring is fairly common, but customers of Cloud Technology Partners might not be comfortable exposing their servers to the public Internet for this capability, Treadway said.

*However, AWS officials said OpsWorks does not expose data to the public Internet, and can be paired with a dedicated network connection into the cloud such as AWS Direct Connect for organizations with this concern.

*While Chef underpins OpsWorks, enterprises may be more familiar with and likely to deploy Chef itself, said Jared Reimer, founder, president and principal engineer at Cascadeo Corp., a Seattle-based cloud computing consultancy.

Amazon may also be up against its own increasingly popular "all-in" cloud strategy for enterprises as well. Some of its enterprise customers don't have on-premises servers remaining to use with the OpsWorks tool.

Enterprises are unlikely to deploy this tool unless they are already fully committed to OpsWorks instead of Chef itself.
Jared ReimerCEO of Cascadeo Corp.

"I can see the value of running OpsWorks with on-premises servers," said Kevin Felichko, CTO of e-commerce site, based in Frederick, Md. "This would have been big for us earlier this year before we moved our internal test environments to the cloud."

Still, while most enterprises will want to institute DevOps from internal systems and more mainstream tools, this is a milestone in AWS' attempts to evolve and woo new customers, said David Linthicum, senior vice president with Cloud Technology Partners.

"Cloud solutions going forward are going to be complex, widely distributed, and leverage hybrid and multicloud architectures," Linthicum said.

And for shops already committed to OpsWorks, this new integration could help cloud migrations, according to Kris Bliesner, CTO of 2nd Watch, Inc., a cloud consultancy based in Liberty Lake, Wash.

"If you use the tool on-premises before moving you won't have to switch tooling, which does sometimes happen once you move to public cloud," Bliesner said.

OpsWorks costs $0.02 per hour for each on-premises server on which an agent is installed, and is available at no additional charge for EC2 instances, according to the AWS blog.

*Statement changed after initial publication

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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Would you use AWS OpsWorks on-premises?
Like many things AWS is rolling out lately, it's an interesting way to get Admins to start using the native AWS tools (even against their own environments - locally). 

It does have the benefit of essentially being "hosted Chef" or "Chef as SaaS", which is an appealing model as you don't have to maintain all the backend upgrades/security/patches/scaling. But that seems like something Chef could offer easily as well.