I recently had the opportunity to review a forthcoming AWS Outpost Micro appliance and was asked to provide feedback. The review was uncompensated, and the device had to be returned, so my agreement was that when a more public release approached I could put my thoughts into a blog post, and here we are.
The AWS Outposts family (see https://aws.amazon.com/outposts/) is a category of appliances which extend the AWS cloud into on-premises data centers. They come in a variety of configurations to suit corporate workloads. Although the Outpost Micro is part of the Outpost family, its capabilities and resources are scaled to the power smart home user.
Even in its preview form, the Outpost Micro showed a lot of potential. The second generation prototype I used has 4 CPU cores and 16GB RAM, plus a bunch of storage (see below). The Outpost Micro does not support services such as EC2, EFS, EBS, SES, etc. This also means services like API GW and GWLB which have a reliance on EC2 are not available. For a couple of these services that’s OK, ISPs usually have provisions about hosting websites from home which the API gateways would allow you to do.
The preview appliance did support S3, Lambda, ECS, DynamoDB, SNS, some IoT services, EventBridge and Fargate. Most compelling was the S3 media streaming. As mentioned above, the Outpost Micro is designed for smart home storage and computational workloads, so there was seamless integration with FireTV devices. Forthcoming features include integration for local Alexa skills, integration with Echo Show and Ring devices.
If you’re familiar with developing for AWS services, you can also deploy your own applications to your device. I was able to set up some Lambda functions and do some data processing in a local environment similar to what I do at my day job. I did not have it long enough to set up Octoprint and drive a fleet of 3D printers but maybe when I get a real one.
Since you always need an architecture diagram to make anything official, this is basically how the Outpost Micro connects to AWS:
As with Kindle and Fire devices, the Outpost Micro is factory configured with your Amazon account, so you just connect it to your network router, turn it on, and hit the config page from a laptop (mobile app coming soon). The appliance uses a Customer Gateway VPN to extend your AWS account on-prem into your own home; other outposts directly extend VPC but this is designed as consumer device and is somewhat self-sufficient. The Customer Gateway is technically part of the appliance and isn’t something you need to set up yourself aside from some initial setup wizard and T&C acceptances.
Since I had the device during sports season, I decided to see how I could extend the device beyond my home. The power outlet in my Honda Pilot was not sufficient to power the device, but my buddy’s Ford pickup could power it, and when coupled with a small wifi router had a portable LAN which the kids loved on a couple long sports trips for media and gameplay. Other cars stayed within portable wifi range so the rest of the team could participate. Thinking back to the LAN parties of old, this is happily similar in concept but almost absurd in its portability.
The OM device has limited access to the rest of your home’s network, so it isn’t suitable as a print server or media server for something outside of the AWS fleet of devices and apps. After some begging and arm twisting, learned my device had about 20TB of storage but final versions may have more or less or the same. This isn’t a 20TB NAS, the storage space is partitioned and used across services, so you may only have 5TB of extended S3 and any overflow is in AWS cloud. It’s clear this is meant to be a cloud-connected device with local cache serving edge computation and streaming needs.
I miss my old Windows Home Server, but with a little config (and in the future, some apps) the Outpost Micro is an exciting piece of home technology.
For more information or to sign up for the next round of preview, click here: https://bit.ly/2ObV8Lh