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Philbert Shih on the Cloud, Edge and Kubernetes

  • January 13, 2021


EKS-Distro moves AWS into hybridcloud. What will that mean for themarket?

ISVs and service providers welcome the release of Amazon’s opensource Kubernetes distro, although some foresee more lock-in

John Leonard

07 January 2021

The AWS re:Invent 2020 announcement that caused the biggest waves wasthat of EKS-Distro (EKS-D), an open source, freely deployable version of theKubernetes distribution on which AWS bases its cloud-based ElasticKubernetes Service (EKS).

The announcement was significant because it means that running a hybridcloud model with local clusters synchronised with AWS-hosted ones shouldbe much more straightforward for EKS customers – and EKS is probably thelargest Kubernetes-as-a-Service offering on the market.

It has always been possible to run Kubernetes clusters on-premises, but untilnow enterprises wanting to do so as part of a hybrid cloud setup have had tocheck continually that their in-house clusters are running the same versionsof dependencies and add-ons as those in the cloud, and that security patchesare properly applied across all environments. As an upstream, open sourcedistribution, EKS-D includes all the same updates that flow into the EKSecosystem so on-prem and cloud versions are always compatible.

Competitors like OpenShift already offer hybrid cloud Kubernetes, but thepopularity of EKS and the fact that EKS-D is free and will therefore be trialledby many teams has given the hybrid cloud containers market a sudden shotin the arm.

The development was broadly welcomed by the ISVs and service providerswe spoke to, including Jon Shanks, CEO of cloud native consultancy Appvia,who said he’s been waiting for the market to shift in this direction.

“We’ve been looking to move into the [hybrid] space and trying to competewith the other container platforms that are out there, especially theOpenShifts of the world,” Shanks said.

“We’re quite confident that we’re seeing the right things in the market nowwith the on-premise solutions. EKS-D is something we were hoping wouldhappen rather than us having to create our own on-premise flavour. There’s arisk in that, so we’ve been sitting and waiting for the big three [to make thiskind of move]. Luckily for us the momentum has picked up, so it means wecan offer our value proposition on top of cloud, which is always what wewanted to do.”

Blair Lyon, VP cloud experience at cloud service provider Linode, was alsoenthusiastic.

“This move is one that we should all welcome – it should make it easier forcustomers to implement hybrid, and potentially more multi-clouddeployments over time. It provides customers with more choice and moreflexibility, which everyone should be in favour of,” he said.

Patrick McFadin, VP developer relations at data management firm DataStax,was a little more guarded in his welcome.

“This is great for enterprises as it does help them run hybrid cloud, in thatyou can use container images across your internal data centre environmentand public cloud instances,” he said. “However, it does potentially tie them toAWS’s implementation of Kubernetes rather than being fully open. For ISVsand service providers, this could effectively link their customers more to AWS.

For those customers that are still running on-premises, this could be aneffective way to prepare for a cloud migration that includes containers.”

Analyst Philbert Shih, founder of Toronto-based Structure Research, said itshows that AWS’s strategy continues to be ubiquity.

“AWS … sees the value in allowing end users to manage containers inwhatever deployment model or underlying infrastructure form factor ispreferred or makes sense from an operations perspective. This could be atthe edge, on-premise or on the AWS cloud. The key is to let developers makethat choice and provide a consistent user experience across deploymentmodels so that they have maximum flexibility.”

The other public cloud providers will doubtless follow suit with hybrid cloudcontainer platforms of their own, however, this does not mean smallerplayers will be pushed out. As they grow and diversify, the megacloudsbecome increasingly difficult to navigate by smaller companies, which iswhere the more specialised providers will continue to find success in theirown niches.

“Small to mid-sized organizations have more standardised needs and valueease of use, simplicity and a more personal and interactive customer servicerelationship,” Shih said.

It’s a point on which Lyon agreed. For smaller organisations the focus is lesson hybrid cloud and more about simplicity and price-point, with an interestin the kind of flexibility promised by multi-cloud, he said.

“SMBs are not looking for the huge spread of services, they are more likely towant those staple services that are effectively getting commoditised. At thatpoint, companies are more likely to look for clearer pricing, direct supportand easier migration with no hidden costs around data transfer.”

The EKS-D announcement in December was one of a number related tocontainers. Others included EKS Anywhere (EKS-A) and Elastic ContainerServices Anywhere (ECS-A) – deployment models that extend EKS and ECS to the edge, both expected later this year – and EKS Console which provides a UIto visualise cluster configurations and API resources, released in December.

The edge is currently the land of cloud opportunity, explained Shih, saying heexpects to see much more action there from all the big vendors, with AWS’srecent moves pointing the way.

“AWS has expanded its Local Zones and Wavelength products, added newedge form factors and is managing this with a consistent toolset and API. Themoves have the potential to push the reach of the AWS cloud out deep to theedge, while maintaining operating efficiency and further contributing to itsscale,” he said.

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