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Amazon Brings EKS Anywhere to Bare Metal Servers

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Last week, Amazon Web Services announced the availability of the beta version of Amazon EKS Anywhere on bare metal servers. This extends the ability to run production EKS Anywhere clusters on vSphere and on physical servers.

Amazon EKS Anywhere is an official Kubernetes distribution from AWS that runs Amazon EKS, the cloud-managed Kubernetes service. Customers can target EKS for cloud workloads and EKS Anywhere for hybrid workloads running in an enterprise data center or at the edge.

Announced in September 2021, EKS Anywhere initially supported VMware vSphere-based environments for running production workloads. With the addition of bare metal servers, customers can now deploy production EKS Anywhere clusters natively without the overhead of virtualization.

Amazon EKS Anywhere is available as free, open-source software that customers can download, install on their existing hardware, and run in their own data centers. However, customers with AWS Enterprise Support subscriptions can purchase an Amazon EKS Anywhere Support subscription for $24,000 per cluster per year.

Deploying and managing Kubernetes on a bare metal system is not as simple as provisioning a cluster in the cloud. Customers are responsible for the entire stack, including operating system, storage, and network infrastructure. They must manage the distribution of the operating system and Kubernetes through regular upgrades, patches and updates.

To provision bare metal infrastructure, AWS relies on Tinkerbell, an open source project founded by Packet, now part of Equinix. Tinkerbell is a modern, containerized provisioning tool that leverages Docker and iPXE to provision bare metal infrastructure. EKS Anywhere leverages Tinkerbell to kick-start bare metal infrastructure to a point where Kubernetes can be installed.

Amazon EKS Anywhere supports two operating systems on bare metal servers: Bottlerocket and Ubuntu. Bottlerocket is an open-source, Linux-based operating system from Amazon optimized for running containerized workloads. It is a lightweight, low-maintenance operating system with a small footprint, which reduces maintenance costs. Amazon recommends running EKS Anywhere bare metal clusters on Bottlerocket.

Although customers can deploy EKS Anywhere on generic hardware, AWS has worked with several OEMs such as Dell, HPE, and Lenovo to test and validate EKS Anywhere on specific server models. This partnership offers customers a combination of hardware and software validated to run containerized workloads on bare metal in production environments.

EKS Anywhere clusters can run in a completely isolated environment in air-gap mode. Internet-accessible clusters can be attached to EKS Console, a centralized monitoring environment available in the AWS Cloud, providing observability capabilities.

Since production Kubernetes clusters run additional software beyond the base distribution, Amazon has announced a set of open source components compatible with EKA Anywhere. Branded as curated packages by EKS Anywhere, these components extend core Kubernetes functionality based on software thoroughly validated by Amazon. MetalLB, the on-premises load balancer, and Harbor, an open-source container registry, are the two components currently available through curated packages.

Amazon EKS Anywhere competes with Google’s Anthos, Red Hat OpenShift, VMware Tanzu, SUSE RKE2, Spectro Cloud’s Palette, and other distributions targeting hybrid deployments.

With bare metal support for EKS Anywhere, AWS wants to reduce reliance on VMware to enable enterprise customers to deploy Kubernetes directly to physical servers running in the data center and at the edge.