Could MicroPoPs Become an Alternative to AWS Outposts and Azure Stack?

OrionVM’s new small-form factor hardware for on-prem cloud deployments offers more options than the hyperscalers’ hybrid cloud solutions.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology Analyst

December 23, 2020

4 Min Read
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Want to run your own hybrid cloud without building your own data center -- or even without a full rack of servers? OrionVM aims to make that easy with so-called MicroPoPs, a novel take on hybrid cloud infrastructure.

The question is, will niche solutions like MicroPoPs hold up as public cloud vendors roll out their own small-form hybrid infrastructure solutions?

What are MicroPoPs?

OrionVM provides IaaS solutions for white-label use cases. White-labeling means that OrionVM’s customers can brand their cloud products as if they deploy and manage them on their own. In this way, the company has traditionally catered to vendors such as IT service providers who sell cloud services but don’t manage their own clouds.

With the announcement in November of MicroPoPs, however, OrionVM is expanding its reach into a somewhat different set of use cases. The company’s MicroPoP (short for Micro Point of Presence) provides customers with physical hardware they can set up inside their own data centers or colocation facilities in order to deploy OrionVM’s IaaS services.

The devices can be installed in just a quarter rack. The company says their small size makes them ideally suited for customers who aren’t yet ready to make a large-scale commitment to the type of hybrid cloud architecture MicroPoPs enable.

Related:To Get the Most Out of Hybrid Cloud Services, Think Beyond Basic IaaS

Surprisingly, OrionVM hasn’t played up the potential of the devices to fit into edge architectures, although it seems plausible that MicroPoPs would work well in that context, too, by allowing users to deploy them in local offices or other edge locations, bringing IaaS infrastructure very close to end users.

The company’s press release about MicroPoPs does, however, point to them as a way to deliver cloud services “in regions previously unserved or ignored by current cloud providers,” suggesting that OrionVM does see them as a way to bring low-latency cloud services to places where they public cloud providers can’t or won’t build data centers.

A New Type of Hybrid Cloud

MicroPoPs are an example of a key emerging trend within the hybrid cloud landscape, which involves providing organizations with purpose-built infrastructure that makes it easy to run cloud services inside a private data center or other locale outside of a public cloud.

AWS unveiled a similar solution at re:Invent 2020, where it announced the availability of Outposts hardware in smaller form factors for deployment in locations such as “branch offices, factories, retail stores, health clinics, hospitals, and cell sites.” Azure Stack Edge caters to this niche, too.

Related:The Unique Advantages of Hybrid Clouds in Colocation Data Centers

And, of course, there is nothing stopping organizations from building their own cloud environments wherever they want using a private cloud platform like OpenStack. The idea of deploying cloud services in a location of your choosing is hardly new.

What does make OrionVM’s MicroPoPs different from the public cloud vendors’ small-form cloud appliances, however, as well as from private clouds, is that OrionVM offers an assortment of specialized cloud services, like data backup and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), that you can’t get in most other cloud platforms, at least not currently. AWS Outposts doesn’t support Amazon’s DaaS offering, for example.

In addition, because of the white-labeling support, MicroPoPs create branding and resale opportunities for hybrid cloud that aren’t available from other solutions. You can’t effectively resell Azure Stack or Outposts because there is no way to rebrand them as your own. You could potentially rebrand and resell something like OpenStack, but then you’d basically be a public cloud vendor yourself, instead of a cloud reseller, because you’d be deploying and managing your own IaaS services on OpenStack.

If MicroPoPs catch on, it will be a sign that the hybrid cloud market is looking for more than just flexible infrastructure solutions from the hyperscale public cloud vendors. It will validate solutions that cater to organizations that want to be able to deploy services like DaaS and data backup using a cloud-based IaaS architecture, while retaining full control over where the host infrastructure resides.

Even if MicroPoPs don’t gain much traction in the market, they’re still worth noting as a reminder that despite all of the headlines made by solutions like Azure Stack and AWS Outposts, the public cloud vendors’ own hybrid frameworks are only part of the hybrid cloud landscape. Smaller cloud vendors have a role to play, too -- and they just may earn a significant chunk of hybrid cloud market share if they focus on providing hybrid solutions that the public clouds can’t.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology Analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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