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Google, Cisco Partner Up on the Cloud

Cisco's HCI comes to Google Cloud Platform.

Google and Cisco are joining forces in a bid to help both companies in their efforts to catch up to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure in the cloud space.

In a move to make Google's public cloud services more appealing to enterprise customers, the company and Cisco are partnering to bring hybrid cloud infrastructure that's compatible with the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). The pact will enable workloads to run on Cisco UCS hyper-converged infrastructure hardware and the GCP.

Both AWS and Microsoft offer hybrid cloud solutions, and they have a wide lead on Google with the world's largest cloud footprints and infrastructure. Microsoft is hoping to maintain its lead over Google and gain ground on AWS with its new hybrid cloud solution, Azure Stack, which is now just starting to ship from Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo. Cisco is also taking orders for its Azure Stack solution, which is set for imminent release.

It looks like a win-win for both Cisco and Google: Cisco will also offer infrastructure compatible with GCP, widening its cloud reach, while Google is gaining significant extension into enterprises. "Applications in the cloud can take advantage of on-premises capabilities (including existing IT systems)," said Kip Kipton, VP of Cisco's Cloud Platform and Solution Group, in a blog post announcing the pact. "And applications on-premises can take advantage of new cloud capabilities."

Cisco HyperFlex HX-Series systems will enable hybrid workloads to run on-premises and in GCP. The hybrid GCP offering is based on Kubernetes, the open source container orchestration and management platform that will provide lifecycle management, support for hybrid workloads and policy management. Kubernetes now integrates with Cisco's software-defined networking architecture, just upgraded earlier this month with the third release of Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

The new ACI 3.0 includes improved network automation, security and multi-cloud support. Now that ACI offers Kubernetes integration, customers can deploy workloads as microservices in containers. Cisco said the Kubernetes integration also provides unified networking constructs for containers, virtual machines and bare-metal hardware and lets customers set ACI network policy.

Cisco's hybrid cloud offering also will include the open source Istio service management tooling. Itsio connects, manages and secures microservices. According to a description on its Web site, Istio manages traffic flows between microservices, enforces access polices and aggregates telemetry data without requiring changes to the code within the microservices. Running on Kubernetes, Istio also provides automated HTTP, gRPC, WebSocket and TCP load balancing and various authentication and security controls.

The Cisco offering will also include the Apigee API management tool. Apigee, a leading provider of API management software, was acquired by Google last year. It enables legacy apps to run on-premises and connect to the cloud via the APIs.

"We're working together to deliver a consistent Kubernetes environment for both on-premises Cisco Private Cloud Infrastructure and Google's managed Kubernetes service, Google Container Engine," said Nan Boden, Google's head of global technology partners for GCP, in a blog post published by Cisco. "This way, you can write once, deploy anywhere and avoid cloud lock-in, with your choice of management, software, hypervisor and operating system." Boden added that Google will provide a cloud service broker to connect on-premises workloads to GCP services for machine learning, scalable databases and data warehousing.

The partnership with Cisco promises to make GCP a stronger candidate for enterprises to consider moving workloads to the Google public cloud, though it's not the first. Among some notable partnerships, Google earlier this year announced Nutanix will run a GCP-compatible implementation of Kubernetes on its hyper-converged systems. And at VMworld, Google and Pivotal Cloud Foundry launched the Pivotal Container Service (PKS) to provide compatibility between Kubernetes running vShpere and the Google Container Engine. However, that VMworld announcement was overshadowed by VMware's biggest news of its annual conference, the plan to offer its VMware Cloud on AWS service.

While Cisco is offering customers an alternative to Azure Stack with its new Google partnership, Microsoft has made significant investments in support for Kubernetes orchestration. In addition to its Azure Container Service (ACS) with support for Kubernetes, Microsoft yesterday launched the preview of its managed Kubernetes service, called AKS.

Planned for release in the latter part of 2018, testing for the GCP-compatible Cisco offering will begin early in the year. 

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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