Will Google Win the Cloud Through Containers?

Container networking will be critical to the enterprise cloud, and Google’s Kubernetes is making some moves to establish dominance.

By Arthur Cole | Posted Aug 12, 2016
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Is Google poised to own the container networking and orchestration market? Many will undoubtedly disagree, but the company has made a number of key moves lately to integrate its Kubernetes platform onto various container management stacks, which could very well lead to dominance in what will undoubtedly become a key element in emerging distributed data environments.

This could also position the company as a leading voice in enterprise cloud deployments, which would finally give it some leverage against that other hyperscale provider whose name is whispered in hushed tones in certain areas of Mountain View.

The latest win for Google came earlier this week, when SDN developer Midokura announced that the new version of its software, Midokura Enterprise MidoNet (MEM) 5.2 will support Kubernetes to add to the existing libnetwork-based overlay option for Docker environments. As CTO Pino de Candia explained to ENP’s Sean Michael Kerner, the goal is to provide multiple container orchestration options for both the open-source MidoNet 5.0 and the hardened MEM 5.2. At the same time, the system is aiming for greater multi-cloud connectivity and router peering through the VXLAN and GRE protocols, allowing broadly distributed clouds to be connected over a common Layer 2/3 fabric.

This follows on the heels of the recent decision by Mirantis to essentially rearchitect its OpenStack distribution around Kubernetes in an effort to allow users to blend OpenStack and other services across public, private and hybrid infrastructure. On the surface, this should make it easier for Mirantis to manage and upgrade its software, but it also means that workload portability to and from the Google cloud will be vastly simplified, says Light Reading’s Mitch Wagner. Company executives, in fact, are looking forward to a day when platforms and solutions like VMware and OpenStack take a back seat to service delivery and outcome-driven architectures.

To be sure, Kubernetes is not the only game in town, and some of its leading rivals have the financial clout to make it difficult for Google to gain total market domination. Docker, which basically kick-started the modern container era, has leveraged its still evolving container networking capabilities into Docker Swarm to support highly orchestrated environments. As well, Mesosphere features broad container management functions in its DC/OS platform and has already drawn the backing of HPE and Microsoft (although Redmond supports Kubernetes as well). Then there is VMware, which has only recently started to contemplate the container networking capabilities of its NSX platform, according to Rajiv Ramaswami,  general manager of the Networking and Security Business Unit (NSBU) – but this wouldn’t be the first time the company has waited to see how markets evolved before entering with a product designed to exploit others’ weaknesses.

And Amazon? The company has launched EC2 Container Services in order to draw more enterprise workloads, but as Redmonk.com’s James Governor noted recently, the previous “Anyone but Microsoft” mentality that fueled the Linux community has since mutated to “Anyone but Amazon” within OpenStack, with companies like Google, Red Hat and, ironically, Microsoft leading the charge. Amazon is currently targeting specific enterprise functions, as evidenced by its recent acquisition of IDE provider cloud9, in a bid to smooth out some of the rough edges that come with working across distributed cloud architectures, but the real test will come when the enterprise community starts to embrace containers en masse and must decide between closed shops like Amazon or community-driven solutions like OpenStack.

It seems, then, that the networking seas are getting stormy, fueled in part by a high pressure system known as digital transformation. Organizations are looking for any advantage when it comes to getting applications and services onto user devices, and the network infrastructure that fulfills that need at the lowest cost will win.

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