The coming year is shaping up to one in which Google uses its experience managing Kubernetes clusters to close the gap between it and rival cloud services providers Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
Google has managed to maneuver itself into third place in the cloud service provider wars, thanks to focusing mainly on big data applications and providing lower-cost infrastructure services via the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). For example, Google doesn’t require IT organizations to commit to specific-size virtual machines or pay for them on an hourly basis.
As Kubernetes continues as the de facto platform for managing clusters hosting containers, Google is betting that interest in deploying it on its cloud will increase substantially. In fact, a recent survey finds that GCP surpasses Microsoft Azure in terms of where IT organizations intend to host Kubernetes in the coming year. To further drive that effort, Google recently eliminated cluster management fees to deploy container applications on top of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).
Aparna Sinha, group product manager for GKE, says Google is making a concerted effort to reduce setup costs involved in deploying Kubernetes. While setup has become substantially easier in recent months, many organizations don’t have a lot of expertise when it comes to building and maintaining container applications. Because of that issue, Google is betting demand for a managed Kubernetes service will increase in this year.
At the same time, however, Google views Kubernetes as an opportunity to drive hybrid cloud computing initiatives in a way that will differentiate it from AWS. To achieve that goal, Google has partnered with CoreOS, Cisco Systems and Nutanix. By deploying instances of Kubernetes in on-premises environments, the assumption is that container applications will be able to move seamlessly between private and public clouds. In contrast, AWS continues to push IT organizations to primarily deploy applications on its infrastructure, even though it does offer a Kubernetes-based service.
Naturally, there’s a lot of work to be done still in terms of making Kubernetes a foundation for hybrid cloud computing that the average IT organization can consume and manage. But from a theoretical standpoint, hybrid clouds based on Kubernetes are now more a question of when rather than if, especially once providers of Kubernetes distributions start passing interoperability tests put in place by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). In addition, new technologies such as service meshes promise to also make it simpler to distribute services across multiple instances of Kubernetes.
It’s too early to definitively say Google will gain at the expense of its rivals because of Kubernetes. There is no shortage of managed Kubernetes services being offered today, some of which span both the cloud and on-premises IT environments. But it is clear Kubernetes represents a significant opportunity for Google to gain ground.