At the recently concluded Cloud Next conference, Google announced the general availability of Anthos, an enterprise hybrid, and multi-cloud platform.
Though there were over 100 announcements made at the event, Anthos stands out for one apparent reason. It marks Google’s official entry into the enterprise data center. It is one of the first official multi-cloud platforms from a mainstream public cloud provider.
From Sundar Pichai to Thomas Kurian to Urs Hölzle, Anthos was talked about as the next-generation technology. It is evident that the top leadership team at Google is proud of Anthos.
Let’s take a closer look at the core building blocks of Anthos:
1) Google Kubernetes Engine – This is the central command and control center of Anthos. Customers use the GKE control plane to manage the distributed infrastructure running in Google's cloud, on-premise data center and other cloud platforms.
2) GKE On-prem – Google is delivering a Kubernetes-based software platform that’s consistent with GKE. Customers can deploy this on any compatible hardware and Google will manage the platform. From upgrading the version of Kubernetes to applying the latest patches, Google will treat it as a logical extension of GKE. It’s important to note that GKE On-prem runs as a virtual appliance on top of VMware vSphere 6.5. The support for other hypervisors such as Hyper-V and KVM is in works.
3) Istio – This technology enables federated network management across the platform. Istio acts as the service mesh connecting various components of applications deployed across the data center, GCP, and other clouds. It seamlessly integrates with software-defined networks such as VMware NSX, Cisco ACI, and of course Google's own Andromeda. Customers with existing investments in network appliances such as F5 can integrate Istio with load balancers and firewalls.
4) Velostrata – Google acquired this cloud migration technology in 2018 to augment it for Kubernetes. Velostrata delivers two significant capabilities – stream on-prem physical/virtual machines to create replicas in GCE instances and convert existing VMs into Kubernetes applications (Pods). This is the industry's first physical-to-Kubernetes (P2K) migration tool built by Google. This capability is available as Anthos Migrate, which is still in beta.
5) Anthos Config Management - Kubernetes is an extensible and policy-driven platform. Since Anthos’ customers will have to deal with multiple Kubernetes deployments running across a variety of environments, Google attempts to simplify configuration management through Anthos. From deployment artifacts, configuration settings, network policies, secrets and passwords, Anthos Config Management can maintain and apply the configuration to one or more clusters. Think of this technology as a version-controlled, secure, central repository of all things related to policy and configuration.
6) Stackdriver – Stackdriver brings observability to Anthos infrastructure and applications. Customers can track the state of clusters running within Anthos along with the health of applications deployed in each managed cluster. It acts as the centralized monitoring, logging, tracing, and observability platform.
7) GCP Cloud Interconnect – No hybrid cloud platform is complete without high-speed connectivity between the enterprise data center and the cloud infrastructure. Cloud Interconnect can deliver speeds up to 100Gbps while connecting the data center with the cloud. Customers can also use Telco networks offered by Equinix, NTT Communications, Softbank and others for extending their data center to GCP.
8) GCP Marketplace – Google has created a curated list of ISV and open source applications that can run on Kubernetes. Customers can deploy applications such as Cassandra database and GitLab in Anthos with the one-click installer. Eventually, Google may offer a private catalog of apps maintained by internal IT.
Google’s product management team did a great job stacking up the services for Anthos.
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 and hybrid cloud management.
- 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 the 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
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 Kubernetes 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 providers, 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.
What’s New in Anthos
Many Organizations deploy multiple cloud platforms to avail the best of the features that the cloud platforms have to offer. However, managing different applications across different cloud platforms is a tough challenge. Working on multi-cloud deployments have led to the teams being disconnected even while working on a common goal. But, organizations cannot lock-in with just one cloud platform.
Anthos can help you face some of the challenges by allowing the multi-cloud interpretation. Let us look at the few solutions that Anthos offers in its updated form:
Anthos Enables Consistency Across Multiple Clouds
Teams slow down and a lot of time is wasted if there is a disjoint between the cloud platforms. Anthos uses Kubernetes and brings the orchestration and policy enforcement across on-premises and multiple cloud platforms. Your organization can use the same open software across many different environments.
Anthos allows you to look at all your services running in a multi-cloud framework holistically. The service Mesh and Config Management allows you to scale across different applications running on different cloud platforms. It frees you from the constraints that cloud providers have.
Anthos Gives the Flexibility and Choice
Google is committed to giving businesses more choices in choosing the cloud provider. Sometimes, organizations start the development of an app on one cloud and face issues with ramping the pace up due to the lack of powerful tools. The open technology of Anthos allows you to be flexible and avoid the lock-in to any cloud. The Anthos works seamlessly with AWS. If you have processes and tools for AWS already built, you could directly install Anthos into the existing AWS VPC.
Features Packed in Anthos
The current release of the Anthos provides a variety of features that would benefit the organizations in more ways than one.
- High Reliability: The Deployed clusters can be put in a high availability (HA) mode, with control plane instances and node poll placed in multiple availability zones.
- Auto Scaling: You can resize the number of nodes based on the traffic, so you pay for what you use.
- Integration With existing AWS: As mentioned above, Anthos works seamlessly with AWS and existing security groups can be leveraged to secure the clusters.
- Operational Consistency: It is easy to manage the workloads on Google Cloud Platform as well as AWS from one place.
- Integration with Full Anthos Stack: Policy can be set on the AWS workloads with the help of Anthos Configuration Management, and the Mesh services can be used to connect and manage all your resources in AWS.
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 microservices 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.