Google Cloud on Wednesday launched the beta version of its Cloud Services Platform, a move that brings the company one step closer to letting enterprises deploy its cloud inside their own data centers.
CSP, which was announced last July, is a version of Google’s Kubernetes Engine built for on-premises data centers. Through CSP, enterprises can build an in-house instance of Google’s cloud service, access and move workloads to the public Google Cloud, and seamlessly manage it all with centralized software.
As part of Wednesday’s announcement, Google beefed up CSP’s management features by adding configuration management to the beta version.
“We’ve had a great response from our early customers, our code has been maturing, and we are excited to bring this to beta,” Adam Glick, lead product marketing manager for Google CSP, said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge. “With CSP, people can take a managed offering that gives them the best way to build their modern applications and run them where they want to – whether it’s on-prem, in the cloud, or connecting between the two.”
Google Cloud is competing against Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and others for a piece of the hybrid cloud market. To do that, all these companies have to get inside enterprise data centers. In fact, 76 percent of global infrastructure decision makers say they are taking a hybrid cloud approach, according to a 2017 Forrester Research survey.
AWS, for example, recently announced plans for Outposts, fully managed AWS-designed hardware that will let customers run AWS compute and storage services on-premises and provide full integration with the AWS public cloud.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Azure Stack, which runs on hardware sold by Microsoft partners Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Lenovo, enables an on-premises version of the public Azure cloud.
How Google’s Hybrid Strategy Is Different
To differentiate, Google Cloud executives say they offer a software-based solution and will not require enterprises to purchase new hardware if they don’t want to. Forcing customers to buy hardware is a legacy model that the cloud is supposed to solve for them in the first place, Glick said.
“What we offer is software. We found that when we talked to customers, 50 percent of them want to be able to run this on their own hardware,” he said. “They didn’t want to make additional investments to be able to take advantage of modernization, so providing this as a software-managed service, we are able to meet their needs.”
Organizations can always buy new or additional hardware and run CSP on top of the hardware, he said. “We are just not forcing them to.”
Melanie Posey, research VP and general manager of 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise, said it’s a smart strategy.
“The distinction Google is trying to make here is that it’s software-only, that they are not shipping you hardware to install in your data center or telling you what hardware to buy,” she said.
Google Cloud does have existing partnerships with hardware vendors Cisco and Nutanix. Through the partnership, for example, Cisco has developed Cisco Hybrid Cloud Platform for Google Cloud, a solution one Cisco executive previously said has similar capabilities to what Google wants to achieve with CSP. Glick said the company continues to actively work with Cisco and Nutanix but declined to give further details.
Posey said Google’s software focus doesn’t necessary undercut its existing hardware partnerships. In her opinion, it’s possible that the Cisco and Nutanix partnerships are more focused on traditional enterprises that want to lift and shift existing legacy workloads to Google Cloud.
For example, Cisco Hybrid Cloud Platform for Google Cloud can be used in a situation where enterprises have existing Cisco hardware on premises and are looking for a cloud-ready environment for existing legacy applications that are currently running fine but could be re-factored or modernized at some point.
Through Cisco Hybrid Cloud Platform for Google Cloud they can expose a legacy app to the cloud via an API layer. “Just because it’s a legacy workload, it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate it into a cloud workflow,” she said.
Beta Release of Cloud Services Platform
When Google Cloud released the alpha version of CSP, it featured several main components, including GKE On-Prem, which is a managed Kubernetes service for on-premises data centers; Istio, an open-source “service mesh” that secures communications between microservices, monitors performance and manages the traffic and API calls between services; and a GCP marketplace for add-ons and third-party tools, Glick said.
CSP Config Management, the big new feature in the beta release, allows customers to do global configuration and policy management and monitoring for both their on-premises workloads and clusters in the cloud, he said.
“CSP Config Management automatically monitors your CSP environment for changes from your desired state, blocking unapproved changes, alerting you to unexpected variations, and making policy deployment, management, and monitoring easy and universal,” Google VP Eyal Manor wrote in a blog post announcing the beta release.
Posey said CSP Config Management helps integrate all the different components of CSP together.
“The beta version of Cloud Services Platform really brings all that stuff together,” she said. “When people talk about cloud management, there is this holy grail nirvana of a single pane of glass to manage all the policies and configurations, and CSP Config Management does that, regardless of whether the application is running on-prem, in the cloud, or both simultaneously.”
Simplifying management is important, says Larry Carvalho, IDC’s research director of Platform-as-a-Service.
“The biggest issue a lot of folks have with Kubernetes and containers is the complexity. So now you can automate things,” he said.
Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst of Lopez Research, said Google suffers from a lingering perception that it’s not enterprise-ready and wasn’t going to aggressively pursue the enterprise data center market, but the company’s hybrid cloud push and its announcement on Wednesday shows otherwise.
“They are a credible player in this space,” she said. “What Google is trying to do is say, listen, we are focusing on application modernization and we have a great platform to help you do that.”
A Google spokesman said the company has no information on when CSP is expected to be generally available. If a beta release goes well, companies typically release their product six to 12 months after the beta is released, according to Lopez.