Google Embraces Hybrid as Path to the Future Cloud

NEWS ANALYSIS: Google makes an investment in the hybrid cloud segment with new managed, on-premises services.


SAN FRANCISCO—Google’s enterprise cloud strategy came into focus this week at its third annual Next conference. The search giant announced products that, for the first time, make it a player in the hybrid cloud space.

Google’s cloud technology has already helped many vendors establish their own hybrid cloud services—such as Red Hat, IBM, VMware, Pivotal and others—to enable customers to run container-based cloud apps in their own data centers or in the cloud.

The new Cloud Services Platform strategy now gives Google an on-premises story of its own. CSP is a collection of Google’s cloud software led by Kubernetes, the now ubiquitous container orchestration platform. Included in CSP is the new GKE On-Prem, a distribution of the Google Kubernetes Engine that offers portability between public or private clouds.

Also included is Istio, a service mesh that supplies critical functions to container-based applications such as security, telemetry and networking. This week Istio reached its 1.0 version milestone and will soon be available for production environments. Google is making a Managed Istio service available that will automatically set up Istio to work with Kubernetes applications in any environment.

Try Before You Buy

Urs Hölzle (pictured), Google Cloud’s SVP of Engineering, explained that the benefits of Google offering customers hybrid cloud capabilities spring from the fact that Google remains close to both Kubernetes and Istio, though both are open source.

“[The ecosystem] enables ISVs and customers to build their software on a platform that is open and non-proprietary,” he said during a press conference. “That open platform is Kubernetes and Istio. For Google Cloud we have managed versions of those services, close to us, our products.”

Google’s managed versions have “high fidelity” with the open source, he said, because they are written by the same team of developers who contribute to the open communities.

“Our managed version [of Kubernetes] is now the only one that is explicitly multi-environment,” he said. “You can use GKE to control your cluster on [Google Cloud] and also use exactly the same tool to manage your cluster that is on premise.”

By working with Kubernetes and containers on premise, he said, developers can get familiar with the microservices paradigm with less risk, while businesses get time to decide when, where and how public cloud services should be employed.

“Migration [into the cloud] can inherit the complexity from on premise, or is a scary transition where everything changes,” Hölzle said. “Cloud Services Platform makes it possible to start that transition on premise without coupling it with an immediate move. It lets you do one thing at a time, and start containerization before you do any migration, in the environment that they already know.”

The Future Cloud

This was a common refrain heard from customers here. Nielsen and Lahey Health, for example, are using Google’s G Suite of email and productivity tools as baby steps to bigger things in the cloud, akin to the way Microsoft customers have leveraged Office 365 for moving or developing applications in Azure Cloud.

Others are using open source technologies internally to build a bridge to the cloud. “Cloud is a method, not a location,” said Justin Arbuckle, Senior Vice President at Scotiabank, who announced the release of the bank’s own “Accelerator Pipeline” as an open source project. “We need to stop thinking about cloud as a where and start thinking about how to use the cloud.”

Ultimately, however, the cloud is the ultimate destination for most applications and data. Google’s top competitors AWS and Microsoft have been more aggressive to this point in enabling hybrid environments, but Google now sees that hybrid is the way to ease users into the cloud and expose them to more high-value services such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which also made plenty of news at the Next conference.

Despite the new hybrid direction, Google will not be able to execute the strategy on its own, and knows it has a long way to go.

“This is a partner-led engagement,” Hölzle said. “Partners are already trusted in the enterprise. We see our role as helping make that environment more compatible and more of an onramp to the future cloud.”

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.

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Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...