Google recently announced the availability of Anthos, a platform designed to allow users to run applications on-premise not just in Google Cloud but also with other providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Announced at the Cloud Next conference held in San Francisco earlier in April, Anthos stands out as the tech behemoth’s official entry into the fray of data centers. Speaking at the event, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Anthos was built on the concept to ‘write once and run anywhere.’ The significance of this first hybrid multi-cloud platform for Google is apparent from the fact that the top line of leadership at Google, right from Pichai to Thomas Kurian and Urs Hölzle, chose to spoke about Anthos from among a 100 announcements made at the event.
What is Anthos?
Despite earning special mentions at the Cloud Next conference, the Anthos announcement came shrouded in ambiguity. Everything that was said about Google’s new ground-breaking service was marked by, and the documentation available in the public domain so far is sparse. Save for its multi-cloud application deployment and hybrid connectivity, and not much is known about Google’s Anthos.
We rally to make sense of what this technology holds and its impending implications. Here is how it can be best described in a nutshell:
- Anthos is not a single product but rather an umbrella brand covering multiple services. In that sense, it is markedly different from any other cloud service.
- These services cater to cloud migration, application modernization, multi-cloud management, and hybrid cloud.
- It is an open source project built on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) that manages containers service for the company’s Cloud Platform.
- A major advantage of Anthos is that you don’t get locked on to any particular cloud vendor.
Building Blocks of Anthos
Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) lies at the core of Anthos and serves as the central control and command center for this new service. But Kubernetes is not the only technology at play here. Several other vital components augment Anthos in power and performance. Let’s take a close look at these building blocks of Anthos:
Google Kubernetes Engine
As mentioned before, Google Kubernetes Engine lies at the heart of Anthos. Customers can manage distributed infrastructure in on-premise data, Google’s cloud, as well as other cloud platforms, using the GKE control panel.
Google is also delivering a software platform based on Kubernetes and consistent with GKE here. This means users can run this on compatible hardware of any kind and management of the platform will fall under Google’s purview. Actions right from upgrading to latest Kubernetes versions to placing in the most recent patches would be considered a logical extension of GKE as far as Google is concerned. So now, the GKE on-premise operates as a virtual appliance on VMware vSphere 6.5 whereas support for hypervisors such as KVM and Hyper-V is in the pipeline.
Istio service mesh is aimed at facilitating federated network management throughout the platform. For this purpose, Istio serves as a mesh holding together different applications’ components spread across GCP, data centers, and other clouds. It delivers on that count through seamless integration with software-defined networks such as ACI, Cisco, VMware NSX, and Google’s very own Andromeda. Customers already working with network appliances such as the F5 will be able to leverage Istio with firewalls and load balancers.
This cloud migration technology was acquired by Google last year to augment Kubernetes, and it does so by delivering on two significant capabilities – converting existing VMs into Pods (Kubernetes applications) and streaming on-premise virtual and physical machines to generate clones in GCE instances. Velostrata is the first-ever P2K (material to Kubernetes) migration tool to be built by Google, and this capability is being replicated with Anthos Migrate, which is currently in beta.
Anthos Configuration Management
Anthos users will have to work with multiple deployments of Kubernetes running in a cross-section of environments. Since Kuberenetes by its natures is a policy-driven, extensible platform, Google has sought to simplify its configuration management with Anthos. Anthos Configuration Management aims to do just that by enabling customers to apply and maintain configurations, right from the deployment of artifacts to network policies configuration settings and passwords to different clusters. It is a secure, version-controlled central cache of everything about configuration and administration.
This platform is aimed at bringing in an element of observability to not just the core Anthos infrastructure but also its applications. It serves as central logging, tracing, and monitoring system customers can rely on to track different clusters within Anthos, as well as determine the health of individual applications within each group.
GCP Cloud Interconnect
Cloud Interconnect, with its ability to clock speed in the range of 100 Gbps is meant to bring in the element of high-speed connectivity between the cloud infrastructure and enterprise data center. Users will also have the option to use Telco networks for linking data centers to GCP.
Customers will be able to deploy applications from a selection of open source applications and ISV compatible with Kubernetes curated by Google. For instance, GitLab and Cassandra can be implemented in Anthos using a single click installer. In due course, the service may be extended to a private catalog of applications from internal IT.
Google Eyes Enterprise Readiness
The coming together of representatives from VMware and Cisco to share the stage with Thoma Kurian at the Cloud Next conference was nothing short of a statement on Google’s readiness for the enterprise. An account that will contribute to inspiring confidence among enterprise customers to bet on Anthos.
So far, Kubernetes has inspired the perception of being a highly technical platform that can only be handled by geeks, developers, and operators. With the application of Kubernetes in Anthos, Google is taking a step toward undoing that perception by presenting a platform that is enterprise-grade, reliable, and viable as a hybrid cloud.
Looking at what Google has done with Anthos, it is evident that the tech leader is eyeing the enterprise. However, it will take more than a coming together of representatives from different companies to see this vision through. To shake things up in the enterprise infrastructure market with Anthos, Google will also need to walk the talk on collaborating with key players from the industry.
Redefining the Cloud Native Ecosystem
Anthos ultimately aims to change the discourse around the cloud-native ecosystem. Google may be going for pulling off a ‘VMware of Kubernetes’ with its latest offering. However, the dynamics of the tech world, as well as the market it seeks to target with Anthos, have undergone a significant shift since the times when VMware establishes itself as a market leader for the enterprise.
The coming in of open source software has been a critical turning point here. Since Google has entered the fray at a time when software alone can no longer be the key USP or differentiator, it needs to leverage the ecosystem as such and the tech community on the whole. This means opening up avenues for startups dealing in niche products aimed at completing the stack of cloud-native computing. Not only do these startups stand to gain tremendously from the Anthos push but Google too will benefit from such collaborations.
Google’s hybrid multi-cloud offering can translate into a multimillion-dollar opportunity for system integrators and service provides, right from small startups and local players to multi-national corps such as Cognizant and Accenture. Anthos has the potential to unleash a wave capable of redefining the cloud-native ecosystems that many market players, irrespective of their size and standing, will seek to ride.
A Leap into the Future
As the driving force behind Kubernetes, Google knows its container management like the back of its hand. With Docket gaining traction among developer circles, Google understood the potential of unleashing Kubernetes into the wild. Now, with Anthos it is staking its claim in establishing a new world order in the realm of micro-services and containers, taking a giant leap forward by shifting the running of modern application from VMs to Kubernetes.
It is a bold move. The calculated risk of breaking away from the established stereotypical hybrid cloud narrative to lure enterprises with a refreshing new spin on hybrid, multi-cloud platforms. Some comparisons between Anthos and AWS and Microsoft Azure Stack are inevitable. However, Google is ahead by leaps and bounds from its apparent competitors in this arena for the simple reason that the Anthos is built on a robust technological foundation that finds its roots in Kubernetes and containers, of which the tech titan is a master.
Impact on the Future
This vantage point is what Google would aim to capitalize on changing the narrative around the cloud-native ecosystem. If things pan out exactly in line with the company’s vision for Anthos, this new service will soon emerge as the preferred platform for running enterprise workloads. All in all, the benefits of Google’s push for Anthos will extend beyond the industry itself. The cloud-native ecosystem and the open source community, too, stand to gain from the accelerated adoption of Kubernetes.