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Google hybrid cloud strategy crystallizes with Nutanix deal

Google's hybrid cloud strategy has started to take shape with a deal to move workloads between its public cloud and Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure.

A partnership with Nutanix makes Google the latest major public cloud provider to make a play for hybrid cloud...


Next year, Google and Nutanix customers will be able to deploy and manage workloads from a single interface across Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and their own hyper-converged infrastructure. This move most closely resembles the partnership between VMware and Amazon Web Services (AWS) that was disclosed last year. It follows a trend among the major public cloud providers as they target an enterprise market where the majority of workloads remain on premises.

Users will be given a blueprint to build and manage applications through a single Nutanix control plane and to move workloads seamlessly between public and private resources, according to the companies. Users will also be able to use GCP as an extension of their own data centers to tap into Google services, such as BigQuery, on their existing workloads.

A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud will support containers through a combination of Kubernetes, Google Container Engine and Acropolis Container Service. Customers will be able to use Nutanix boxes as edge devices to process and relay data to internet of things applications built in GCP with TensorFlow.

Hybrid takes center stage in public cloud competition

Enterprises' hybrid cloud strategy has evolved from hype to reality as they shift more of their workloads to the public cloud. Unlike many born-in-the-cloud startups that dominated the early public cloud market, enterprises must balance these newer cloud applications against local applications that have to remain on premises either for compliance reasons or because of how they're architected.

Microsoft made the first big splash in this market nearly two years ago with plans to bring a packaged version of its Azure public cloud inside users' data centers. Oracle and IBM have also emulated this model.

Amazon, which doesn't have the same legacy infrastructure concerns, has essentially done the inverse of Microsoft. Through a partnership with VMware, IT shops can bring their on-premises workloads to a dedicated space within AWS data centers. From there, they can take advantage of some of the cloud native tools available on AWS.

Google is going the same route with the Nutanix deal. Both vendors have a public-cloud-first view, so their goal is to make it as easy as possible to move there from private data centers, said Dave Bartoletti, an analyst with Forrester Research.

These moves cater to an audience that has a strong investment in either VMware or Nutanix, he added. They want to add public cloud to what they've already got, and they don't want to convert to a whole new management stack.

"It's going to be attractive to a lot of data center teams when the first step is connecting the public cloud to my data center," Bartoletti said. "The second step is what can I move without changing; then the third step is once they're there, how can I start modernizing by using cloud native services?"

Nutanix offers a software stack that competes directly with VMware in the hyper-converged space, though VMware has a much larger install base due to its dominance in the hypervisor market.

Google had a more limited cloud partnership with VMware that largely went nowhere before being scuttled. Google also reportedly failed to get a deal similar to the one made with AWS after VMware co-founder Diane Greene took over at GCP.

Google recognizes the void in its hybrid cloud strategy and its ability to bring the enterprise to its cloud, so this Nutanix deal is a move in the right direction, said David Linthicum, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, a cloud consulting firm in Boston.

But he's always wary of these types of partnerships, as many fizzle after an initial buzz. The pair will need at least 100 customers to sign on quickly for it to have any type of lasting impact, he said.

And while Google knew it needed a response to what AWS has been doing, it's unclear how this is better, said Mindy Cancila, an analyst at Gartner.

"The majority of workloads are virtualized and the majority of the cloud workloads are on AWS," she said. "VMware has a massive footprint with ESX that people are trying to do something with, but that's not the same story with Nutanix."

Of course, there are as many questions as answers with the hybrid cloud strategies from Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Azure Stack and VMware on AWS are both expected to be available in the second half of 2017 after lengthy private testing. The Nutanix and GCP integration is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2018.

With all of these offerings are questions about cost and the level of interoperability and consistency between environments. In the case of the Google-Nutanix deal, most new on-premises workloads are going toward hyper-converged infrastructure, so there could be compelling uses, depending on how both sides address these questions, Cancila said.

"You really need to understand what the use cases are and what layers of integration are," she said. "If it's just nested virtualization on top of virtualization, that doesn't offer as much value."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

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