Google Embarks on Multicloud Platform Strategy with Anthos Launch

Google demos workload portability with a planned VM-to-Kubernetes migration tool.

Jeffrey Schwartz

April 15, 2019

7 Min Read
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If it’s too late to beat your rivals at their own game, sometimes the best strategy is to change the game. While that’s easier said than done, if anyone can do it, it’s Google, which says it has invested $47 billion over the past two years in its global cloud infrastructure, expanding from four regions to 19 with 58 zones now in operation.

Google Cloud’s new plan to level the playing field with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft calls for extending its global public cloud service and new hybrid offering into a multicloud service. The release of the company’s Cloud Service Platform, software announced last year that can run on partner- or customer-owned hardware, was expected at last week’s Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco. Google introduced the hybrid offering’s new brand, Anthos, now available in Google Cloud Platform (GCP) with Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) as well as the GKE On-Prem offering through OEMs, managed service providers and systems integrators.

Most notably, though, is the multicloud support coming to Anthos. Google plans to enable Anthos also to work with Kubernetes services from competing clouds including AWS and Microsoft Azure. The multicloud capability Google is planning, and demonstrated last week, is possible as an outgrowth of the near ubiquitous industry support among application developers and platform providers for Kubernetes. Originally developed by Google as a project once known as Borg, before the company contributed to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as an open-source project, Kubernetes has become the preferred container orchestration standard among cloud-service providers and ISVs and, in addition to Anthos, among other offerings, is enabling the new Cloud Run managed serverless compute platform announced at Google Cloud Next.

Anthos by itself isn’t multicloud-capable. Google’s new Anthos Migrate will provide that capability by enabling automated migrations into containers that can run in Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) from virtual machines running on-premises or in other clouds. Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed Anthos and alluded to the multicloud plan for the first time during the opening keynote session of last week’s conference.


Google’s Sundar Pichai

“It brings together the simplicity of open-source platforms, our deep technical expertise and the freedom to choose the right cloud partner for your job,” Pichai said. “It lets you write once, and run your jobs anywhere, in our cloud, in your data center or on other cloud providers.”

Pichai introduced Thomas Kurian, tapped late last year to lead Google Cloud following the retirement of his predecessor, Diane Greene. Kurian, who acknowledged Greene’s efforts in pivoting Google’s enterprise cloud strategy, said the launch of Anthos was the most significant of many announcements during the weeklong conference.

“It came from our listening to customers who wanted three important things from their cloud providers,” Kurian said. “First, the ability to have a technology stack that they can run in their data center next to enterprise workloads that they couldn’t yet move to the cloud … Second, a single programming model that gave him the choice and flexibility to move workloads, to both Google Cloud as well as other cloud providers, without any change. And third, a platform that allows them to operate this infrastructure, without complexity, and to secure and manage across multiple clouds in a single consistent way.”

Eyal Manor, VP of engineering for Google’s Cloud Services Platform, demonstrated Anthos, available from …

… OEMs including Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, Intel, Lenovo and VMware, as well as through managed services providers and systems integrates including Accenture, Arctiq, Atos, Cognizant, Deloitte, DoiT, Epam, HCL, IGNW, NTT, Rackspace, Softserve, Taos, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro and World Wide Technology.

“If you’re using multiple compute environments, Anthos is for you,” Manor told attendees. “It lowers your IT costs with managed, open source, enhanced security layers. Integrated right out of the box with Anthos, you can run it on premise[s] right now; you can actually install and start running in less than three hours.”

Anthos provides monitoring, logging, visibility and continuous integration, continuous delivery (CI/CD) tooling to enable agile DevOps processes consistently both on premises and in the public cloud.

“You should be able to deploy new and existing apps running on premise and in the cloud, without having to invest in constantly retraining your developers,” Manor added.

Jennifer Lin, director of product management at Google Cloud, demonstrated Anthos Migrate, which provides the tooling to convert existing workflows into modernized containers that can be managed in Kubernetes environments. Anthos Migrate also handles the conversion of virtual machines into Kubernetes-based containers without requiring developers to rewrite their applications, Lin said. In her demos, the applications and associated governance policies ran consistently in GCP, on Anthos and in an AWS instance.

“Now, you can finally have a consistent experience to flexibly deploy managed services running on GCP, in your own data center, as well as on other clouds,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but I think that is very cool.”

Partners agreed.

“This is such a wise pivot toward redefining the value of any of the cloud providers, meaning Google wants to be the operating system of the cloud, regardless of where it lives,” said Tony Safoian, CEO of SADA Systems, speaking during a partner panel for media last week. “People have talked about this panacea forever, but nobody’s even really come close to operationalizing it in production in the enterprise grade.”

Brian McKillips, a senior technology executive at Accenture, who leads the business group it formed with Google last year, told Channel Futures it has been working closely with Google Cloud on Anthos for more than a year.


Accenture’s Brian McKillips

“Anthos  is very, very interesting,” he said. “We share the point of view that we live in a hybrid cloud, multicloud world. I think Thomas Kurian and [the] Google Cloud team recognize that it’s no longer just about infrastructure and running a data center; it’s really about all the use cases that sit on top. So it’s now very application-focused and being able to … containerize things really quickly to get new services out to market that are going to empower the business outcomes that they want … it’s a very compelling and powerful recognition and enablement of where the world is today.”

Another partner working closely with Google Cloud is Atos, which took pleasure in the naming of the new hybrid cloud offering, which it wasn’t aware of until last week. Atos, also among the first partners to support Azure Stack, Microsoft’s comparable hybrid cloud solution released 18 months ago, has worked closely with …

… Google on Anthos for nearly a year and has developed its own solution that it will offer on VMware-based reference architectures as well as its own BullSequana S hardware.

Mark Nouris, global head of Atos’ Canopy Orchestrated hybrid cloud business, said while the large integrator has sold some Azure Stack implementations, the Google offering could have a broader audience, at least in the current form of both offerings. While Azure Stack implementations require a practical minimum of 400-500 virtual machines and a multimillion investment, Google’s Anthos can start with 120 VMs and under $1 million.

“We are expecting this to fly much faster,” Nouris told Channel Futures, in regard to Google Anthos. “That’s because of the DevOps option and it’s a less expensive solution.”

It’s expected that Google’s rivals will ultimately follow in its footsteps, and in some regards, have made that implication for some time; however, as in all promises of interoperability, it remains to be seen what how portable workloads will function across clouds.

“What Anthos is promising is what enterprises want, but customers need to know they are still locked into Google’s abstraction layers,” warned Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. “Google will need to provide a next level of detail to show how a customer could run apps at Azure and AWS to convince the industry. I see early adopters as enterprises first, then once the ‘system’ gets perfected, moved to channel partners.”

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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