Why AWS Outposts is good for Cloudian

Last month I wrote there is an arguable case that AWS Outposts represents an existential threat to the on-premises hybrid cloud storage and server market.

Michael Tso, CEO of Cloudian, the object storage vendor, thinks I am wrong. For example, Outposts is severely limited when it comes to object storage, he says.

Tso told us: “Outposts is an enabler for Cloudian, similar to VMware, AzureStack and Anthos. Cloudian is very good at storing massive amounts of data, but users must stand up their own on-premises compute environments to work with the data.” Outposts can provide that on-premises compute environment.

Cloudian’s support of and partnerships with VMware, Azure Stack, Google Anthos  and Outposts have helped it gain over 500 enterprise and government customers.

Michael Tso

I put it to Tso that “Outposts with S3 competes with on-premises Cloudian.”

Think again, he replied: “Our business has surged since Outposts was announced two years ago (plus AzureStack and Anthos), which I think is due to two reasons.”

“The first is that Outposts (as well as AzureStack and Anthos) unequivocally validated why we started Cloudian eight years ago: data gravity leads to cloud [data] needing to be distributed rather than centralised. Cloud compute will need to move closer to the data because moving data is very expensive and time consuming. The Outposts website states why someone would want to use the service and includes low latency, local data processing and data residency – all of which have been our consistent message for the last eight years.” 

Hybrid cloud era

Tso acknowledges that on-premises storage vendors need to innovate to stay competitive with cloud storage service suppliers, and their on-premises systems. Cloudian “has invested heavily in the right differentiation areas and propelled our growth in this new hybrid-cloud era.”

Hardware players need to have “cloud-like elasticity in capacity and pricing, ” he says. “Software players need to provide more cloud-like features such as easy management, elastic capacities, cloud-native S3 APIs, and multi-tenancy and also differentiate in areas like security/air gap, IT policies/storage efficiencies, multi-cloud, etc.”

But surely, Outposts represents competition for Cloudian?

Tso replied: “In the two years since Outposts have been around, we have never seen them pop up as competition, rather only as an opportunity to collaborate.”

How come?

“Outposts S3 is quite different from AWS S3. Think of it as more of a cache – its control plane is in AWS, so it must always be ‘tethered’, and it runs on HCI (hyperconverged infrastructure) hardware, so it’s currently limited to 96TB per Outposts deployment with associated costs. In contrast, Cloudian scales to EBs, can operate in ‘air gap/dark site’ mode, and is frequently lower cost.”

“The model is entirely different, and so is the technology… Ultimately what Cloudian specialises in (distributed storage) is very, very hard at scale – both in terms of data volumes and number of deployments/configurations. While compute is elastic and portable, the technology for data persistence, resilience, security and sovereignty at scale in diverse enterprise network environments is very different from public cloud storage.“

According to TSO, AWS and Cloudian share the goal of using the S3 protocol for data on-premises instead of having it locked away in traditional silos. This S3-commonality makes that data friendly to cloud-native applications, such as AI, ML and analytics.

OK, So AWS Outposts is good for Cloudian today and presumably it is good for some other storage hardware vendors too. But tomorrow? Let us remind ourselves that Amazon is playing the long game, a game in which it sets the rules.