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Google and Cisco Target Microsoft Azure Stack with Hybrid Cloud Play

Google is partnering with Cisco on a hybrid cloud effort that will enable workloads to run on Cisco's UCS hyperconverged infrastructure hardware and the Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

The partnership, announced Wednesday, is aimed at enticing more enterprise customers to Google's public cloud services. It also puts Google in the direct path of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, both of which offer hybrid cloud solutions. AWS and Azure are No. 1 and No. 2 in the public cloud space, respectively, with Google trailing by a wide margin.

In a bid to maintain its lead over Google and gain ground on AWS, Microsoft recently began rolling out Azure Stack, its new hybrid cloud solution, from Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo. Incidentally, Cisco is also an approved hardware partner for Azure Stack, with its first shipments imminent.

Cisco's plan to offer infrastructure compatible with GCP widens its cloud reach, while giving Google a significant enterprise play. "Applications in the cloud can take advantage of on-premises capabilities (including existing IT systems)," said Kip Kipton, vice president of Cisco's Cloud Platform and Solution Group, in a blog post announcing the pact. "And applications on-premises can take advantage of new cloud capabilities."

The GCP-compatible Cisco offering is planned for release in the later part of 2018, with testing beginning early in the year. 

Cisco's HyperFlex HX-Series systems will enable hybrid workloads to run on-premises and in GCP. The hybrid GCP offering is based on Kubernetes, the open source container orchestration and management platform that provides lifecycle management, support for hybrid workloads and policy management. Kubernetes now integrates with Cisco's software-defined networking architecture, which was just upgraded earlier this month with the third release of Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

The new ACI 3.0 includes improved network automation, security and multicloud support. Now that ACI offers Kubernetes integration, customers can deploy workloads as microservices in containers. Cisco said the Kubernetes integration also provides unified networking constructs for containers, virtual machines and bare-metal hardware, and lets customers set ACI network policy.

Cisco's hybrid cloud offering also will include the open source Istio service management tooling. According to a description on its Web site, Istio manages traffic flows between microservices, enforces access polices and aggregates telemetry data without requiring changes to the code within the microservices. Running on Kubernetes, Istio also provides automated HTTP, gRPC, WebSocket and TCP load balancing and various authentication and security controls.

The Cisco offering will also include the Apigee API management tool. Apigee, a leading provider of API management software, was acquired by Google last year. It enables legacy apps to run on-premises and connect to the cloud via APIs.

"We're working together to deliver a consistent Kubernetes environment for both on-premises Cisco Private Cloud Infrastructure and Google's managed Kubernetes service, Google Container Engine," said Nan Boden, Google's head of global technology partners for GCP, in a blog post published by Cisco. "This way, you can write once, deploy anywhere and avoid cloud lock-in, with your choice of management, software, hypervisor and operating system."

Boden added that Google will provide a cloud service broker to connect on-premises workloads to GCP services for machine learning, scalable databases and data warehousing.

The partnership with Cisco promises to make GCP a stronger candidate for enterprises that are considering moving workloads to the Google public cloud, though it's not the first. Google earlier this year announced that Nutanix will run a GCP-compatible implementation of Kubernetes on its hyperconverged systems. And at VMworld, Google and Pivotal Cloud Foundry launched the Pivotal Container Service (PCS) to provide compatibility between Kubernetes running vSphere and the Google Container Engine.

However, that VMworld announcement was overshadowed by VMware's biggest news of its annual conference: its plan to offer VMware Cloud on AWS.

To its credit, Microsoft has also made significant investments in support for Kubernetes orchestration. In addition to supporting Kubernetes in its Azure Container Service (ACS), Microsoft this week launched the preview of its managed Kubernetes service, called AKS.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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