Google is Building a Version of Kubernetes Engine for On-Prem Data Centers

Google Cloud is building a version of its Kubernetes Engine service users can run in their own data centers•Currently in alpha, GKE On-Prem is meant to give enterprises a consistent way to manage their application infrastructure in-house and in the public cloud•The company announced the feature at its annual Next conference in San Francisco Tuesday

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

July 25, 2018

3 Min Read
Urs Hölzle, senior VP technical infrastructure, Google
Urs Hölzle, senior VP technical infrastructure, GoogleYevgeniy Sverdlik/Data Center Knowledge

Google Cloud is preparing to launch a version of the Google Kubernetes Engine service customers can deploy in their own data centers.

Called GKE On-Prem, an on-premises instance of the service will act and feel like another availability zone on a Google Cloud user’s dashboard. The user will be able to monitor and manage it using the same tools as the rest of their cloud environment.

Urs Hölzle, senior VP technical infrastructure at Google, announced the product Tuesday at Next, the company’s big annual cloud conference in San Francisco, together with two colleagues. In a live demo they presented on stage, a rack of hardware running GKE On-Prem on top of VMware’s vSphere appeared on a dashboard as another availability zone alongside cloud availability regions running in Google data centers.

The announcement is meant to advance Google’s hybrid cloud strategy. Most technology vendors going after enterprise IT dollars are building ways to make it easier for companies that already have computing infrastructure in-house to combine it with public clouds. Currently in alpha, GKE On-Prem promises to be a good way to do it for Google Cloud customers that use the popular application container orchestration platform Kubernetes.

“We’re ending the false dichotomy between on-premise and cloud,” Hölzle said. “A consistent hybrid platform across all environments is a natural choice for many businesses, for many years to come.”

Related:Google Cloud Takes Center Stage at Cisco Live!

Google’s biggest competitors in the enterprise cloud market have taken their own paths to hybrid cloud. Microsoft has developed Azure Stack, an infrastructure software stack designed to give users the same experience on-premises as they have with its Azure cloud services.

Amazon Web Services has partnered with VMware to integrate its suite of virtualization and cloud infrastructure software on top of a bare-metal infrastructure inside AWS data centers. The goal of the partnership is to make it easy for VMware customers (most enterprise IT shops, in other words) to extend their existing on-prem VMware environments to AWS.

Google demoing the new cloud feature on top of VMware at Next may not be a coincidence. Because the data center software giant runs in so many server farms around the world, showing that GKE On-Prem can be deployed on VMware is a signal to a large segment of the potential market for Google Cloud.

VMware “represents the biggest opportunity,” Ed Anderson, a research VP at Gartner, commented on the demo choice in an interview with Data Center Knowledge. “VMware has such a huge install base and presence in enterprise environments.”

Related:Different Folks: Selling Google to the CIO

It’s probably also not a coincidence that the announcement and the demo during the event’s opening keynote was followed by a Cisco VP joining Hölzle on stage to talk about the two companies’ joint hybrid cloud product.

Google partnered with Cisco – which like VMware enjoys a nearly ubiquitous presence in enterprise data centers thanks to its market-leading networking technology – last year. Speaking from the Next stage Tuesday, David Goeckler, executive VP of Cisco’s Networking and Security business, said the solution that’s been the focus of the partnership would be generally available this August.

Cisco Hybrid Cloud for Google Cloud will be the first GKE-certified hybrid cloud platform on the market, Goeckler said.

The Cisco solution has similar capabilities to what Google wants to achieve with GKE On-Prem, Jeremy Oakey, senior director for enterprise product management at Cisco, said in a separate session at the event. “It’s the same capabilities we’ve been working on together,” he said.

Using Kubernetes as the common way to deploy applications in the cloud or on-premises, it gives enterprise IT managers a way to manage a hybrid infrastructure underneath, while setting policy and enforcing compliance. Additionally, Cisco’s solution includes visibility into existing legacy data center environments, such as VMware, Oakey said.

Gartner’s Anderson said he didn’t see the announcement of GKE On-Prem as problematic for Google’s partnership with Cisco. There’s nothing preventing Google from having the feature play a role in the partnership in the future, he said.

Overall, focusing on hybrid cloud was the right move for Google Cloud, Anderson said. “It speaks to a common need that we’re hearing from customers, which is the need to coordinate more of their application deployment and management across their on-prem and cloud environment.”

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