BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
IT shops can for the first time bring a piece of the AWS OS on premises as Amazon tries to find yet another way to make enterprises comfortable migrating workloads to its platform.
The Amazon Linux Container Image is available for users to run inside their own data centers. The image is available from the EC2 Container Registry, and although it's not the full Amazon Machine Image, it is built from the same source code and is intended to create some parity between environments in-house and on Amazon's public cloud.
Most clients use the AWS Linux image in the cloud because it's free, versus paying a higher fee by running Windows or other Linux images such as Red Hat's, said Chris Riley, a founding partner at HKM Consulting LLC in Rochester, Mass. The Amazon Linux Container Image capability is likely a response to customer demand for using that image outside AWS, especially from larger clients that need some resources on premises for consistency.
"It's important for QA and other teams -- whether it's libraries or the code is dependent on something in the OS or security patching -- if you don't have an exact match you can't guarantee behavior [across environments]," Riley said.
The Amazon Linux Container Image will help IT shops do dev and test in Amazon and bring workloads back on premises to run in production, as well as those doing the inverse, said Mike Kavis, vice president of strategic accounts at Cloud Technology Partners, an IT consulting firm in Boston and AWS partner.
Mike Kavisvice president of strategic accounts, Cloud Technology Partners
"The whole DevOps movement is about speed to market and a big piece of that is a standard environment across all end points, whether it's in the cloud or on- premises," Kavis said.
Of course, being able to move the Linux container image on-premises doesn't mean customers can run AWS and its myriad features in-house. It means that developers can work with it on their laptops and write the same code that will run on the cloud if and when they port it over to AWS.
This new capability follows a string of announcements aimed at easing the transition of applications to AWS, including a new native migration tool and a partnership that will eventually allow IT shops to run their VMware environments on top of bare metal in AWS. Earlier this year, Amazon launched Application Discovery Service, its first on-premises tool, which uses an agent to profile existing apps before migrating them to AWS.
"It just looks more and more like they're loading up the tool belt with as many options to go from on premises to the cloud or to go after those who aren't fully ready to go all-out on the cloud," Kavis said.
Competing with Docker and Kubernetes
The ability to bring the Amazon Linux Container Image in-house could provide a degree of portability to make Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS) more attractive and combat the growing popularity of the open-source Kubernetes orchestration tool that runs across a range of environments, Kavis said.
Amazon sees containers as an extension of the AWS platform, with ECS looking just like the rest of AWS and integrating well with the rest of its services, said Mathew Lodge, COO of Weaveworks, a San Francisco company that provides networking and management for containers, as well as an AWS partner. But ECS does present a few more challenges in using the Docker tooling, such as the ability to deploy but not monitor Docker containers in ECS, so this goes a step closer to interoperability, he added.
"A lot of software developers build and test stuff on their laptops, so by making this container image available to run outside of AWS you make it a lot easier for people to then deploy on to AWS," Lodge said. "Really, the motive is to build as many bridges as possible for applications on to AWS."
Amazon views itself as large enough to forge its own path in this space, Lodge said. But with re:Invent, the primary AWS user conference, just a few weeks away, he expects to hear even more from Amazon about improvements and investments into containers as it tries to keep pace with the growing ecosystem around Docker and Kubernetes.
Lodge doesn't see this as a hybrid play, though. Amazon hasn't made the Amazon Machine Image available, so these workloads must run on top of Docker instead of just booting Amazon Linux on to a server or virtual machine.
"This is all about building an application so it can easily run on AWS," Lodge said. "Amazon fundamentally believes they can run data center infrastructure better than any enterprise can, and even if companies aren't quite ready they see it as just a matter of time."
Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Contact him at email@example.com.
AWS improves management, cost tools
Make the most out of Docker portability
AWS, VMware announce cloud partnership