Google made a splash when it pledged to push its cloud software into corporate data centers. Just don’t expect to buy it directly from Google.
The container-based Cloud Services Platform was the marquee rollout at the vendor’s annual user conference this week. The Google hybrid cloud framework aims to help corporations address the considerable challenges from being stuck between the on premises and cloud worlds. But it wasn’t until later in the week that Google acknowledged it won’t have much involvement in handling the non-cloud side of the equation for customers.
Later this year, customers will be able to deploy a unified architecture that spans from their private data centers using Google Cloud Services Platform, to Google’s public cloud. The two most important pieces to this puzzle are managed versions of the Google-led open source projects Kubernetes and Istio. Kubernetes has become the de facto orchestrator for the wildly popular container architectures, and Google expects Istio, a service mesh developed by the same team, to solve some of Kubernetes’s shortcomings in areas such as security and audit logging. These technologies are designed for modern, cloud-based software development, but Google says they’ll work just as well wrapped around and connected to legacy systems that sit inside enterprises’ facilities.
In a press conference with reporters, Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google, described Istio and Kubernetes as a joint ecosystem akin to the Andriod mobile OS Google developed, with products packaged and sold on top. Cloud Services Platform has proprietary Google software, but he referred to it repeatedly as an ecosystem and talked about the importance of partnerships like the one Google has with Cisco.
When asked to clarify the go-to-market strategy for the Google hybrid cloud, Hölzle said the company would largely take a back seat with deployments outside its cloud.
“We’re not an on premises company itself, so [Cloud Services Platform] is really an enabler,” he said. “We get a license fee, but it’s not our goal to displace the relationships we have, so I don’t expect us to be the direct seller and supporter for most accounts.”
The service will be primarily partner-led for two reasons, Hölzle said. ISVs and other potential partners already have trusted on premises relationships with enterprises. And Google plans to keep its focus on compatibility among environments, so the service can act as an onramp to future cloud adoption, and corporations can move at their own comfortable pace.
There could be exceptions, such as if a large-enough customer asked Google to take the lead, Hölzle said. But enterprises should expect to see even more third-party vendors join Cisco as part of the Cloud Services Platform ecosystem over time.
That partner-led approach may have been conveniently left out – or, at best, underplayed – by Google this week, but Hölzle’s points aren’t unreasonable. And in fairness, this is just the alpha release. But if the Google hybrid cloud approach takes off, it will only engender more support from third parties – something Google has moved aggressively to improve and is a critical piece to any public cloud’s success.
And in some ways, it’s not a unique approach. The most prominent hybrid cloud partnership on the market merges technology from VMware and AWS, but as far as customers are concerned, that service is wholly sold and supported by VMware.
But that’s just one vendor – albeit one with a massive install base in traditional enterprises’ data centers. Google has pitched its cloud as a more open alternative to the competition, and it appears that approach will extend to hybrid, too, with plans to cast a wider net to get ISVs and large legacy vendors to buy into its approach. Time will tell if those ISVs, and more importantly, their customers, will do just that.