Google, Cisco pitch hybrid cloud benefits for modern apps

Google and Cisco aim to deliver hybrid cloud benefits to customers with modern apps through a service that dynamically provisions resources in-house and on the public cloud.

Once unheard of, deals to bridge public and private cloud resources have become the norm. The latest, an agreement...

between Google and Cisco, aims to bring hybrid cloud benefits to modern application frameworks.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Cisco this week said they will offer a hybrid cloud service next year that incorporates an amalgam of the two companies' orchestration, management, networking and security tools. This joint engineering effort is the latest acknowledgement that, despite the torrid growth of public cloud, most IT shops aren't ready to ditch their private data centers any time soon.

The hybrid offering follows the lead of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which has teamed with VMware to bring vSphere environments to its public cloud, and Microsoft, which has collaborated with several hardware vendors to build a scaled-down version of its Azure public cloud to run in customers' private data centers. The VMware-AWS deal, as well as Google's own efforts with Nutanix, is more akin to a lift-and-shift strategy to port legacy assets to the cloud, but this deal focuses on cloud-native workloads.

Melanie Posey, analyst, 451 ResearchMelanie Posey

The service will rely on two open source projects to dynamically link private and public resources: Kubernetes, the Google-led container orchestration tool, and Istio, a platform developed by IBM, Google and Lyft to connect and manage networks of microservices. Google acquisition Apigee will manage APIs to securely communicate between environments. Users will be able to write their code once and maintain consistency between Google Container Engine and HyperFlex, Cisco's hyper-converged private cloud infrastructure, but choose their own management, software, hypervisor and OS. A brokerage service will connect in-house workloads to big data and machine learning services on Google Cloud Platform.

A cloud-native, developer-friendly spin on hybrid cloud makes a lot of sense for Google, and this deal represents Google's best response yet to Microsoft's and Amazon's efforts in this space, said Melanie Posey, an analyst at 451 Research. Cisco is a particularly good partner because it introduces Google's cloud to an enterprise market where GCP use lags, she said. And Cisco has done more than any other traditional server vendor to enable hybrid architectures by building or acquiring tools for DevOps, orchestration and end-to-end management.

Now we're getting to true hybrid [cloud] where you can share services on both ends.
Jeff Katoanalyst, Taneja Group

"If you put all those things together on the Cisco side and everything Google has on their side related to developer tools and frameworks, I think you get the closest thing to maybe an organic on-prem, off-prem hybrid cloud story," she said.

Because the service relies on many of Google's open source projects, it could provide a model for other on-premises vendors into Google's hybrid cloud framework in the future, Posey said.

Each vendor's services can be bundled or purchased separately, with Cisco acting as the technical support lead. Cisco software purchased for this service will be licensed on one- to five-year subscriptions and hardware sold through perpetual licenses. Google services, which can be purchased through subscription or pay as you go, will be bought directly through Google or a GCP reseller.

Beta testing begins early next year, with general availability expected in the second half of 2018.

Hybrid cloud benefits push partnerships

The concept of shared resources between public and private cloud environments is not new, though most of the early promises of bursting and other seamless integrations largely fizzled. Instead, most cloud usage today -- public or private -- consists of siloed architectures, even as enterprises increasingly use multiple clouds.

In 451's latest surveys, just 17% of respondents who said they use the cloud indicated they also have a hybrid cloud setup, which the firm describes as workloads that share resources dynamically across public and private clouds. Still, that percentage is rising, and IT vendors at both ends of the spectrum have sought to provide more hybrid cloud benefits to their customers.

This string of collaborations represents a realization that these companies need each other. Many traditional IT vendors were reluctant to provide a bridge to the public cloud upstarts that were eating into their bottom lines. Several, such as Cisco, tried and failed to build public clouds. Private data centers remain the dominant IT architecture model, but the continued growth of the public cloud market has left them scrambling to remain relevant.

Meanwhile, many public cloud companies scoffed at the idea of hybrid, but have come around to focus on an enterprise market that's unprepared or unwilling to relinquish all in-house resources. The result is a handful of strategic partnerships intended to resolve competitive disadvantages on both sides.

"The hype and the promise [is] that this stuff would work together ... but, in reality, that hasn't worked all that well, especially with the big three public clouds," said Jeff Kato, an analyst at Taneja Group in Hopkinton, Mass. "There's been a renewed focus on getting this right, and also a recognition that hybrid is really what customers want."

There's finally some meat on the bones with these hybrid offerings, and for Google, this hybrid partnership is about extending the focus to modernization and container-based workloads.

"Now we're getting to true hybrid where you can share services on both ends," Kato said. "In this case, by focusing on Kubernetes, they're able with container infrastructure and Cisco's networking capabilities to do that end-to-end networking and provisioning and coordinate on premises and the cloud."

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

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