Cisco Partner Summit 2017: Vendor highlights Google pact

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Cisco and Google Cloud executives took the stage at Cisco Partner Summit to talk about the companies' collaboration on hybrid clouds, containers, and Kubernetes.

DALLAS -- Cisco is making hybrid clouds and multi-cloud management a key theme at the vendor's annual partner meeting.

The company tipped its hand a bit on Oct. 25 when it announced a hybrid cloud partnership with Google, just days before the opening of Cisco Partner Summit 2017, which runs Nov. 1-2. The hybrid cloud offering combines the Cisco HyperFlex hyper-converged infrastructure offering as the private cloud component and Google Cloud Platform as the public cloud element. Containers and their management via the open source Kubernetes platform figure prominently in the hybrid cloud alliance.

At the summit, Cisco and Google executives talked up the partnership and the partner implications. Chuck Robbins, CEO at Cisco, called the alliance "monumental," adding that early field trials of the hybrid technology are slated for the first half of 2018. The partnership, he said, brings "all the benefits of the open cloud to the enterprise."

Diane Greene, Google Cloud chief, who joined Robbins on the stage at Cisco Partner Summit 2017, said the Google sales force is getting a lot of questions about the partnering arrangement. "We think that bodes really well for the partners."

Green said the hybrid offering in the works represents a huge opportunity for partners. She said customers need help modernizing their applications and suggested partners can provide them a "modern, container-based approach." She said partners can also offer assistance to customers as they navigate cloud services and move workloads between them.

"Our success is completely tied to your success," she said in reference to partners.

Partner reaction

Channel partners, for their part, see some plusses in the Cisco-Google combo.

Jason Parry, vice president of client solutions at Force3, a network security and IT solutions provider in Crofton, Md., and Cisco partner, suggested the partnership is on track with how large customers consume cloud services.

"There's no doubt that hybrid cloud is the preferred option for enterprise and federal government buyers," Parry said. "It allows organizations to test the capabilities of cloud without having to go all in."

Cisco's contribution to the partnership stands to help enterprises adopt the hybrid model. Parry said hybrid clouds require a high level of connectivity to ensure the private and public cloud components can communicate. He said Cisco addresses that issue.

"This is where the partnership comes in as Cisco's cloud networking infrastructure allows Google to offer users the ability to securely leverage any cloud they need at any time," Parry said.

Aric Bandy, president of Agosto Inc., a cloud services company and Google partner based in Minneapolis, also cited the importance of hybrid clouds and Cisco's role in advancing that technology among enterprise customers. Bandy said large companies can't uproot and re-platform all their applications and move them to the cloud at one go.

"Hybrid is the way that most of these companies are going to get there," Bandy said.

Cisco's combination of enterprise experience and orchestration technology can help customers "leverage Google on the back end as part of their journey," he said.

Cisco's participation in the alliance also helps broaden the use cases for the Google Cloud Platform. Over the past couple of years, Agosto has focused on customers with high-performance workloads or those who needed the Google Cloud Platform's advanced services such as machine learning and data analytics.

"That is where Google has played really well," he said.

Cisco, however, with its trust among enterprises, infrastructure architects, toolsets and processes, can enlarge the potential customer set for Google's public cloud, Bandy said.

A container focus

Container technology, meanwhile, is another important component of the alliance. The partnership "appears very focused on containerization and microservices offerings," said Greg Layok, senior director and leader of the Advanced Analytics practice at West Monroe Partners, a technology and business consulting firm based in Chicago.

Indeed, the alliance places a particular emphasis on containers and the Kubernetes container management platform. In the on-premises environment, Cisco's hyper-converged infrastructure offering, Cisco HyperFlex, will run Kubernetes and containers. HyperFlex is built on Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), the vendor's data center server product line. In the cloud, Google Container Engine, Google's managed Kubernetes service, takes on the management task. According to a Google blog post, the companies aim to "deliver a consistent Kubernetes environment" for on-premises and cloud-based workloads.

"It's positive that they are considering making these offerings more seamless between on-premises and cloud," Layok said. "However, work will still need to be done to migrate on-premises services and applications to the cloud platform. This migration won't magically happen, but no PaaS platform can currently offer an automatic or perfectly seamless migration."

Layok suggested existing Cisco UCS or Google cloud customers could boost their containerization consumption when they see the ability to develop content in local or on-premises development environments and more easily or more directly port the content to the Google cloud.

However, customers with development organizations already committed to container technology may find the Cisco-Google alliance reduces their flexibility.

"We have historically seen Cisco having a hard time executing on these grand integrations with other vendors and large vertically integrated solution stacks," Layok said. "For teams that are already agility-focused and have their organizations using container-based platforms, this seems like a move in the opposite direction, to tie things down to additional hardware and specific-vendor solution stacks, versus the container portability value they are going for."

Also on tap

Other themes developing at Cisco Partner Summit 2017 include Cisco's continued push into recurring software and subscription sales, the channel's need to drive software adoption among clients and the partners' ability to migrate customers to what Cisco calls "the network intuitive."

Next Steps

Learn about Cisco's transition to the industry shift to cloud
Read about Google's Cloud Next 2017 conference
Hybrid cloud networking: Users want it to be simple