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AWS cloud strategy gives nod to on-premises needs

Amazon RDS on VMware signifies a major move on premises to compete with other cloud providers and appease customers. But how far will AWS go from its cloud-only roots?

Many people who exclusively use AWS do so with an almost religious belief that they are doing the right thing when it comes to cloud-native infrastructure. However, we've begun to see these same types of born-in-the-cloud systems run on platforms that are neither AWS, nor public cloud.

AWS' latest and most pronounced effort to address this trend and extend its services beyond the public cloud is Amazon Relational Database (RDS) on VMware. This product, currently in preview, ports the popular, cloud-based RDS software to customers' private, on-premises vSphere environments. It's an interesting shift for AWS' cloud strategy, which has long advocated its platform as the best place to run modern workloads, and raises questions about whether it still wants users to ultimately move everything there.

Cloud vendors compete beyond the cloud

For starters, you can't blame AWS for this move to expand its technology footprint to other platforms and markets. Both Google and Microsoft provide versions of their public cloud software that run inside customers' private data centers. Most recently, Google offered an on-premises version of its managed Kubernetes platform. And Microsoft has on-premises analogs for most of its public cloud systems, including Azure Stack -- a scaled-down, private version of the Azure public cloud.

AWS' cloud strategy seems to be a reaction to its customers' needs, as the vendor likely received scores of requests to make RDS available on VMware. I'm sure we'll see other AWS offerings on other platforms, as well, with a continued emphasis on integration between those services and its own public cloud.

What's next for AWS' cloud strategy?

AWS executives must talk a lot these days about how far afield they're willing to go to appease enterprise clients. AWS has long held firm on its cloud-only approach to building technology, but it also understands that it must step out of its comfort zone if it makes sense for customers -- and for its business model.

AWS should look to extend other services, including its Redshift data warehouse, beyond its public cloud. However, it should not make the same move with services that are deeply native to AWS, such as its managed Active Directory, which would make no sense on premises, given that Microsoft already has that market covered.

In terms of the future direction of AWS' cloud strategy, I expect tactical platform integrations to be on the table. For example, if Amazon RDS could run on not just VMware, but on Microsoft environments, as well -- either on Azure or private Windows Server deployments -- AWS could capture portions of the market it wouldn't be able to otherwise.

Some would look at this move as a compromise of AWS' public cloud beliefs. But, at its core, the ultimate goal of its partnerships with companies such as VMware is to eventually push those workloads to the Amazon public cloud.

And while some enterprises will eventually use other platforms to run specific AWS software, it's unlikely to become a prominent method. In general, AWS is well-served to stick to its public cloud guns and link with other platforms only as the needs arise.

Those who use enterprise technology that includes AWS should know the cloud provider will always operate in its own self-interest. Expect nothing less.

This was last published in October 2018

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