How Google Anthos Enables a New Path to Multi-Cloud

NEW-PRODUCT ANALYSIS: At Cloud Next 2019, Google took the covers off its multi-cloud platform, Anthos, that promises to make multi-cloud environments a reality

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This week at its Cloud Next user event in San Francisco, Google announced Anthos, which enables customers to evolve to a hybrid, multi-cloud environment. The product is an extension of its existing Cloud Services Platform (CSP) released in beta earlier this year. That version of CSP enabled customers to run workloads on Google Cloud using Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and in a private data center with GKE on-prem. Rival cloud providers offer a hybrid stack, but Anthos is different in that it enables businesses to manage workloads on third-party clouds, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

Anthos Provides Cloud Freedom

During his keynote to industry analysts in a Monday pre-briefing, Google Cloud Senior Vice-President Thomas Kurian painted a picture in which a developer could create an application once and then run and manage the workloads on the cloud of their choice, without the need to use vendor specific APIs and learn details about the different environments. Because it uses Kubernetes, it provides the flexibility to move on-prem apps to the cloud or vice versa.

The other differentiator of Anthos is that it’s delivered as a 100% software solution, enabling a business to run it on any hardware of their choice. This leads to operational consistency and a short deployment time, because there is no requirement to refresh hardware. The product uses open APIs, giving developers the freedom to work at their own pace. Also, GKE is a managed service so developers will always have the latest updates and security patches, greatly minimizing risk.

Modernization Made Easy with Anthos Migrate

As part of the launch, Google also announced a beta service called Anthos Migrate, which automates the process of migrating virtual machines (VM) to a container in GKE, regardless of the whether the VM is on premises or in a competitive cloud. Without this service, the typical process would be to lift and shift the VM into the cloud without modification or spend months modernizing it. The GCP service migrates and modernizes in one motion, enabling rapid transformation without the heavy lifting.

Cisco Systems, Google Expand Partnership

Although the service is delivered as software, it still needs to run on hardware, and Google worked closely with many of its ecosystem partners to ensure that customers could start enjoying the benefits of Anthos immediately. One such vendor is Cisco Systems, which has had a close relationship with GCP. The two partners have a number of joint cloud activities already but have expanded that relationship to make it easier to build secure, multi-cloud environments. The vision of hybrid and multi-cloud has been driving Cisco’s data center vision for years.

At the event, Cisco EVP and GM of Networking and Security David Goeckeler took the stage to discuss the co-innovation done between the two vendors. The goal is to leverage Cisco and Google’s technology to deliver a best-in-class hybrid, multi-cloud experience by integrating Cisco technology with Anthos. Joint customers can choose from a broad set of Cisco technology, including HyperFlex, HyperFlex Edge, ACI, Stealthwatch Cloud, SD-WAN and Intersight; these will all have integrations with Anthos.

Cisco and Google Cloud have been joint contributors to Kubeflow, the open-source project for AI-based application. The partnership has been a boon to both companies. Many industry watchers and financial analysts predicted that the cloud would spell doom for Cisco, but the work it has done with the cloud providers--including Google--certainly dispel that myth. For Google, the company has been a distant No. 3 in the cloud services race, but the innovation with Cisco can be a key differentiator.

Cisco isn’t the only infrastructure vendor to toss its hat into the Anthos ring. VMware, Dell EMC, HPE, Intel and Lenovo have roadmaps to deliver Anthos on their hyperconverged infrastructure solutions. The use of validated solution stacks can have hardware freedom without the need to spend months tuning and tweaking the products to optimize performance.

Anthos Indicates Google is Thinking ‘Customer First’

The release of Anthos is notable for Google. The company has long been criticized for not listening to its customers and being difficult to work with. CSP was originally slated to enable Google customers to run a hybrid GCP environment. During the analyst session, Kurian made it a point of stating was listening to customers more and trying to “meet them where they are at” instead of trying to force them down a path they aren’t ready to go. Making it easier for customers to use its competitors’ products may seem like a strange move for Google, but the one thing I have learned in my many years as an analyst is that if something is good for customers, they are going to do it. The vendors on the leading edge of that trend, more often than not, wind up the long-term winners.

Anthos is unique in that it’s the first product from a cloud provider designed to help not just go hybrid, but multi-cloud. It’s also arguably the first product Google has built from direct customer feedback versus being some engineering product by a bunch of smart people.

Kurian has only been in this role since November, but he appears to have brought a customer-first attitude into Google.

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.