On Thursday, Google announced it was becoming a sponsor of OpenStack, the private cloud software project. At first glance this might seem strange because Google is all about public cloud, but it is actually consistent with a strategy that started first with VMWare back in January. However, containers are part of the mix now too.
Earlier in the year, Google announced integration with VMWare's management platform, and I wrote:
"The strategy here is clearly "hybrid". This is backed up by new Google Cloud features like VPNs, so you can easily tie your existing networks into Google Cloud services, all the way from raw compute to managed PaaS with App Engine. Amazon has been very public about knocking "hybrid" strategies - even if they offer a range of features that allow you to tie into existing networks I suspect these may be designed to ultimately get you to move all your workloads into their cloud. Google, on the other hand, seems to be trying to make the best of both worlds in knowing that some workloads are going to remain on-premise for a long time. And the most likely way they'll be managed is with VMWare. I wonder if we'll see anything announced around OpenStack soon?"
Given this context, you can read Google's announcement this week with a few extra words:
"The first is a move towards the hybrid cloud. Few enterprises can move their entire infrastructure to the public cloud [yet]. For most, hybrid deployments will be the norm and OpenStack is emerging as a[n initial] standard for the on-premises component of these deployments."
OpenStack is probably the most well known private cloud standard but as soon as you get past the compute, networking and storage commodities and start to try to compete with the other platform and infrastructure services offered by the public cloud vendors, you're going to lose. As I wrote in February:
"Can you build your own equivalent of Google's BigQuery? Can you build your own equivalent of Amazon's build and deployment pipeline management products? Yes you could, but can you match their features and pricing? Probably not. "
And this is where Google's second move comes in. They're not just supporting OpenStack, they're helping specifically with their open source orchestration tool, Kubernetes. Google isn't being subtle about this. From their announcement:
"We believe that the intersection of these trends is important to businesses everywhere. By joining forces with the OpenStack Foundation we hope to add container-native patterns to the toolbelt of enterprise developers, and improve interoperability between public and private clouds." (emphasis mine).
Google is leading the development of container technologies and services and Kubernetes is the leading orchestration tool. The fact that it supports many different platforms, not just Google, is a key part to that strategy. The bet is that whilst you might start by running containers on OpenStack (or other clouds), you will eventually choose to run them on Google's Cloud Platform because it will offfer things you can't get elsewhere: cheaper pricing, better management features, more platform services, greener environmental credentials...all the kind of things you can only achieve at scale.
Google is playing the long game. They want everyone using their cloud platform and they're plan to achieve this by making it the best place to run containers, which will become the new standard.
Containers make it easy to deploy across any provider, and Google's ultimate goal is to have the best reasons to use them. It's not there yet, AWS is still king, but it is working hard to catch up. It may not be able to differentiate competing directly against all the infrastructure services AWS has, not that it isn't trying, but it has another strategy too. Containers.