Cisco arrived late to the hybrid cloud party, teaming up with Google last year on a yet-to-be-released product.
Since then, the Cisco-Google love fest has been on full display. Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene joined Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins on stage at Cisco Live in June. And Cisco posted a series of love letters, err, blogs, last week during Google Cloud Next about the deepening relationship. In three blog posts Cisco detailed the “new era of the partnership,” launched a cloud challenge for developers to build hybrid applications, and said the joint hybrid cloud product is “only the start.”
The companies also announced new product integrations between Cisco’s Webex and other contact center software and Google artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.
And for a very brief moment during Google’s annual cloud conference, David Goeckeler, EVP and GM of Cisco’s Networking and Security business took the stage to talk about the joint product, called Cisco Hybrid Cloud Platform for Google Cloud. He said it will be generally available in August. It’s based on Kubernetes and Istio, and will allow enterprises to deploy Kubernetes-based containers on premises and in Google Cloud Platform.
Cisco had previously said it added Kubernetes support into its other products like its CloudCenter management tool and AppDynamics monitoring platform.
The partnership has the potential to benefit both companies, giving Google the enterprise cred it’s chasing and Cisco a public cloud partner as its customers adopt hybrid environments.
“The partnership has worked out well for both companies,” said ZK Research analyst Zeus Kerravala. “Google needed something to legitimize itself as an enterprise cloud platform and having Cisco, the dominant network vendor, giving their seal approval was a good thing. Frankly, I think if Cisco could have gotten Amazon or Microsoft first, they might have.”
While Google needs Cisco more than Cisco needs Google, the partnership also helps Cisco “fit into this cloud-first world,” he added. “It helped Cisco regain some of its mojo.”
GKE On-Prem Wild Card
But Google’s own on-premises Kubernetes product called GKE On-Prem, also announced at its Cloud Next conference last week, may drive a wedge between the partners, said Gartner analyst Sid Nag.
“It has an element where you can manage Kubernetes on premises and in the cloud through a common cluster management system, so it’s not clear to me where the hybrid cloud with Cisco ends up with the GKE announcement,” Nag said. “At Google Cloud Next it was clear that Google is trying to go it alone with GKE On-Prem, and I don’t know how that Cisco partnership is going to play out in the long-term.”
And, he added, the Cisco-Google Cloud hybrid product “isn’t truly a cloud-related partnership, it’s much more of a container-based partnership. I know they spun the cloud story around it, but I don’t consider it a hybrid cloud story.”
Plus, it faces competition from several other hybrid cloud services.
“Prior to the partnership with Cisco, Google announced a similar partnership with Nutanix, and Nutanix has, over the past years, moved its focus also toward enterprise cloud enablement, particularly hybrid cloud,” said Global Data analyst Chris Drake.
There’s also IBM’s hybrid cloud offering, called IBM Cloud Private, which enables workload mobility and management between on-premises data centers and several clouds including IBM Cloud, AWS, Microsoft Azure, and VMware private clouds. Oracle’s got a hybrid product that runs Oracle’s cloud software stack on premises (on Oracle hardware) as well as in Oracle’s public cloud.
And then there’s VMware Cloud on AWS, which has been rolling out new releases every six months since it launched last summer. Although this service isn’t tied to a single hardware vendor, because of its cozy relationship with (and 81 percent ownership of VMware), Dell EMC does benefits from this hybrid cloud partnership as well.
“VMware Cloud on AWS has a lot of legs because AWS is still the poster child for cloud,” Kerravala said. “And VMware is the de facto standard virtualization platform. As we move to a containerized world, we’ll see if that remains the case. But for now, that should bear Dell EMC a lot of fruit in that their infrastructure develops in lockstep with VMware innovation.”
‘Dark Horse’ Azure
“The dark horse is Azure and Azure Stack,” he added. “Microsoft might end up being the long-term winner in the cloud.”
Microsoft’s hybrid cloud software stack runs on hardware from several vendors including Cisco, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei, and Lenovo. And while AWS “blows it away” when it comes to services offered, “Microsoft has so much knowledge of worker behavior,” Kerravala said. Much of this learning comes from Office 365, but the company is also adding to its data via its machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) products.
“What Google knows about you in your personal life, Microsoft knows about you in your work like,” Kerravala said. “And Azure and Azure Stack is a good hybrid offering.”
But Kerravala’s not discounting the Cisco-Google hybrid cloud just yet. He says the Cisco contact center and Google AI integration is a solid use case. “Cisco has the data, the call center infrastructure, but they don’t have the maturity in AI that Google does,” he explained. “Everything I’ve read about digital transformation says the key differentiator will be in the areas of customer service. And if that’s true, then the Google-Cisco partnership is the low-hanging fruit.”