Google Anthos: A New Age in Hybrid Cloud Services?

Cloud

Will Google’s innovation fundamentally change how hybrid cloud services are built and deployed?

As cloud services have proliferated, managing these highly complex environments has become imperative. What is needed is an integrated approach that supports the current trend for hybrid cloud infrastructures. Here, Google Anthos (formerly Cloud Services Platform) could fast become the application management platform of choice, as enterprises expand their hybrid cloud deployments.

At the Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, Google CEO Sundar Pichai succinctly described Anthos as: “write once and run anywhere.” He went on to state: “It gives you the flexibility to move on-prem apps to the cloud when you are ready, and it allows you to keep using the technologies you are already using while improving security.”

With VP of Engineering, Google Cloud, Eyal Manor stating in a blog post: “Anthos will also let you manage workloads running on third-party clouds like AWS and Azure, giving you the freedom to deploy, run and manage your applications on the cloud of your choice, without requiring administrators and developers to learn different environments and APIs.”

Businesses have continued to expand their hybrid cloud services. This expansion has often been ad hoc. Also, enterprises have built complex systems often from a variety of vendors. Indeed, according to the 2019 State of the Cloud report from RightScale, over 80% of respondents have built their cloud environments with a range of services from different suppliers.

The trend towards multicloud deployments has driven the need for more efficient management systems. The open nature of Anthos that includes managed Kubernetes delivers a structure that can meet the demands of the public, and private cloud deployments CTOs are now called upon to manage. And as their deployments expand, the container approach can meet these expansion needs with ease.

Speaking to Silicon, Stephan Fabel is Director of Product Management at Canonical where he leads the product strategy across the Ubuntu from the cloud to server, desktop and IoT devices said: “Anthos is made up of open source components. As such, it carries natural advantages inherited from all software which is open source: high degree of collaboration, community-driven endorsement, skills development and security profiles, and so on. However, Kubernetes adoption – and by nature, adoption of its dependent services which make up Anthos – is still not mainstream today.”

Fabel continued: “I believe Anthos has taken an important step towards addressing the holes and cracks between the microservices seeking to be deployed with containers on Kubernetes and leveraging open source communities such as the CNCF and others will certainly contribute towards Anthos’ success in the future.”

What is clear for all CTOs and their CIO colleagues is that the multicloud is in their future. Being able to effectively manage these deployments will require new tools. Google is staking its claim to become the standard for application and cloud services deployment.

Anthos: Active cloud management

If you survey the current cloud vendor landscape, the Trinity of Google, Amazon and Microsoft govern this space. Steve Fletcher, Head of DevOps at Cloud Gateway, believes even with the incumbents, it wouldn’t take a seismic shift to see Google become the dominant player. “For organisations that are already fully invested in AWS and Azure, it will be a struggle for Anthos to seamlessly fit into the landscape.

“However, the mindset will drastically change after an inevitable outage that will cause a significant loss of business for those invested in AWS and Azure. As a result, future cloud investment will be focused on multicloud, especially with Google offering hybrid multi-cloud Kubernetes through Anthos a huge shift will begin.”

Lee Atchison, Senior Director, Cloud Architecture, New Relic, also commented: “Since AWS announced support for Kubernetes in November 2017, Kubernetes has become the de facto leader in container orchestration. Amazon essentially bestowed the position of leadership to Kubernetes with their announcement.

“Additionally, Kubernetes offers a good set of features that are the core of most company’s container orchestration needs. There is sufficient talent with expertise in Kubernetes in the industry. Going forward, CIOs will find Kubernetes to be a solid and viable standard option for their complex business needs. With that standard, Istio is positioned to be the default leader for service mesh technologies. However, that battle is not yet finalised. Still, Kubernetes and Istio are a solid bet for CIOs to make today.”

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) on-prem needs VMware vSphere 6.5. A break with the VM conventions that have dominated the cloud space for several years will eventually give way to more flexible management applications. This application could be Anthos, but don’t expect the other leading cloud vendors to sit still while Google transforms the marketplace.

Becoming cloud agnostic with Anthos

Are the days of VMs numbered? Google would certainly argue that its approach is the future of the multicloud. Having the ability to convert existing VMs to containers that can then take advantage of the additional services Anthos offers to users is highly attractive to CTOs. How this works in practice, and how well Anthos plays with others outside of its ecosystems has yet to be fully explained.

“A major headline grabber for IT executives will be Anthos Migrate, a tool that automates the conversion VMs to Docker,” said Cloud Gateway’s Steve Fletcher. “Yet, using tools like this for applications can come with as much pain as a traditional migration. If it’s a Java application, then a VM to container migration could simply be running a WAR/EAR on JBoss/Tomcat but inside a container. Do we need a special tool for this, or is it a case of amending a strategic CI/CD Pipeline? I would choose the latter.”

How Microsoft and Amazon will react to Google’s bold move to place Anthos as the future of multicloud applications remains to be seen. Ultimately, Google would like Anthos to become the new VMware for all cloud deployments.

Embracing the container as the platform for application development and deployment across multicloud environments could transform how CTOs manage their deployments. However, Microsoft is also working on containers and Kubernetes, which could make decision-making about how to manage your multicloud implementation more complex. Lastly, the open-source nature of Anthos is its core strength. The open-source ecosystem has again shown how businesses can use their applications to transform their businesses.

Silicon in Focus

Kalyan Kumar, Corporate VP and CTO of IT Services at HCL Technologies.

Kalyan Kumar, HCL Technologies.
Kalyan Kumar, Corporate VP and CTO of IT Services at HCL Technologies.

Kalyan Kumar B. (KK) is the Global CTO of HCL Technologies and Business Line Leader for Global Cloud Native Services and DRYiCE products and platforms. KK also leads the Service Line for Global Infrastructure Services. As part of the CTO role, he is actively involved in Product and Technology Strategy, Partner Ecosystem, Startup and exploration incubation and also supports the Inorganic initiatives for the company.

Will Google Anthos have a substantial impact on hybrid cloud deployment and management?

“The early signs are promising for the ‘new kid on the block.’ Google Anthos seems to have the potential to make a substantial impact on hybrid cloud deployment and management.

“Three key strengths that Anthos brings are simplicity, centralisation and flexibility. Anthos enables a simplified and centralised approach to hybrid cloud container platform and enhanced security. Anthos works on the vision’ Build once and run anywhere.’ This allows the use of IaaS from other public cloud vendors which Anthos runs on top of.

“Despite these strengths, however, Anthos isn’t without its limitations: It doesn’t encompass virtual machine (VM)-based workloads and only provides a hybrid container platform. Plus, the centralised management always needs to lie off-premise for the customer, even when the clusters themselves are designated on-premise.”

Is the open-source nature of Anthos an advantage?

“Open source is a huge advantage and a sign that large-scale acceptance could be on the way. It’s important to remember that most popular open-source cloud-native projects, such as Kubernetes and Istio, are not just adopted by Google, but by a broad mix of other public and private cloud vendors. These projects are backed by leading companies and a rapidly evolving ecosystem. With these foundations in place, large-scale adoption of Anthos seems likely.

“Is Google betting on Anthos creating a vibrant ecosystem of third-party applications to deliver niche products some CIOs need to develop specific hybrid cloud services?

“It’s probably a bit early to be discussing any Anthos ecosystems at this point – we’ll have to wait and see. That being said, Anthos’ open-source foundation suggests that this is the direction Anthos is heading in – the open-source ecosystem is flourishing and, will likely contribute to Anthos’ success.”

How will Anthos fit into a landscape dominated by AWS and Azure?

“Anthos seems to be taking a different route to AWS and Azure. It plans to be a pioneer in hybrid container platform strategy, which may be attractive for customers looking for flexible and scalable container platform options.

“Though AWS and Azure may eventually catch on to this, currently their solutions are restrictive where hybrid container platforms are concerned. Early Anthos implementations have been well received, mainly since Anthos can run across both the customer’s existing investments on metal and a VMware stack.”

What will determine the future of Anthos in a crowded hybrid cloud marketplace?

“Anthos’ sustainability depends on its migration capabilities, and Google’s links with application service providers and integrators. Enterprises are facing application migration challenges where containers are concerned.

“Anthos Migrate – a service from Google to migrate applications directly to containers without any code change – may well provide an answer to this challenge.”

“Going forward, it would be interesting to see if both VM and containerised workloads are brought under the single umbrella of the Google Anthos hybrid platform, since this may start to set a different type of expectation among customers.”

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