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Amazon Web Services (AWS), the largest public cloud currently available, today announced that it’s adding on-premises and multi-cloud support to its EC2 Run Command feature, which lets users run shell scripts and other managerial jobs on multiple machines. Until now the service only let users do this for multiple EC2 instances, or virtual slices of physical servers in Amazon’s data centers.

“Many AWS customers also have some servers on-premises or on another cloud, and have been looking for a single, unified way to manage their hybrid environment at scale,” AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr wrote in a blog post.

The significance here is that AWS is again going beyond just providing tools for working in its public cloud. The idea of hybrid cloud is to rely on multiple infrastructures — maybe AWS and on-premises private cloud, maybe AWS and Microsoft Azure and the private cloud, for example — and now AWS is taking another step to embrace this scenario. This has happened just a few times before in the past. For example, in April 2015 AWS introduced on-premises support for CodeDeploy, a continuous-delivery service. The AWS Snowball hardware for efficiently shipping hard drives to AWS is also an acknowledgment of sorts that companies still maintain on-premises data center equipment, even if the whole premise of the product is to migrate data into AWS.

Support for infrastructure on public clouds other than AWS — be it Azure or the Google Cloud Platform or IBM’s SoftLayer — has less precedent and is more surprising.


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Just last week, during an onstage discussion at the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington D.C., AWS chief executive Andy Jassy talked about the disadvantages of using more than one public cloud:

If you want to go multi-cloud across the board, you have to standardize across the board with the least common denominator. … Most companies and organizations don’t want to give up all that capability. Managing multiple stacks — it’s a pain in the butt to do. So it’s hard, it’s resource-intensive, it’s costly. To try to have to get deep on multi (cloud) is really difficult and pretty wasteful. You give up some of your buying leverage.

But Microsoft, AWS’ closest competitor, has been executing on a cloud strategy that involves exposing management tools for public and private infrastructure and providing the same tools on premises as what’s available in Azure. In essence, Microsoft’s cloud is more hybrid than AWS. And now AWS is doing a little bit more to approach that, while also standing out further from the Google cloud, which has done even less to embrace on-premises computing. Google and Microsoft offer cloud-based management tools (Operations Management Suite and Stackdriver, respectively) that can let customers work with certain AWS infrastructure, but generally Amazon, as you might expect from the leader of the market, has not extended the same courtesy in the past. EC2 Run Command isn’t the same type of service, but it is finally adopting their underlying product design choice of working with infrastructure other than your own.

All customers have to do is install AWS’ SSM Agent on their servers. It works with both Windows Server (2003-2012) and Linux (Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS). The agent can also be installed on top of guest operating systems when VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, or KVM hypervisors are being used.

The expanded functionality of Run Command is available through nine AWS regions: US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Northern California and Oregon), EU (Frankfurt, Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo), and South America (Sao Paulo). AWS first announced Run Command in October.

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