As Google has committed itself to becoming an enterprise technology vendor, it has followed a path it knows very well in pitching big open-source projects as the solution to the challenges of distributed computing. Two of those projects — Kuberenetes and Istio — will take center stage Tuesday at Google Cloud Next.
Google plans to announce that Istio is ready for prime time, releasing the 1.0 version that builds on developments over the past year in the project shepherded by Google, IBM, and Lyft. It also plans to announce that it will offer a managed Istio service, while rolling out a Google-tweaked version of Kubernetes designed to be used by companies with significant commitments to on-premises servers, according to company executives.
As the third-place cloud computing vendor, looking up at Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, Google has some work to do to establish itself as an enterprise cloud vendor. Lacking the first-mover advantage of AWS and the corporate coziness of Microsoft, Google has instead tried to pitch customers on its tech prowess and its embrace of open-source projects that provide quasi-vendor-neutral tools for multicloud environments.
Istio, which Tamar Eilam of IBM explained in depth at our GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit last month, is a tool designed to provide a so-called “service mesh” to manage all the microservices that have become part of modern cloud-native software development. Software applications used to be constructed out of monolithic blocks of code, which were relatively easy to build but harder to maintain, as tweaking one section of code can have huge ramifications on the performance or reliability of an app.
The solution was microservices, which break down all the things an app needs to do into dozens of smaller services which can be tweaked as needed without disturbing unrelated application code. But as developers take advantage of microservices, managing all those little pieces can be quite the headache, which is pushing the development of service meshes like Istio or Buoyant’s Linkerd.
When I interviewed legendary Google engineer Urs Hölzle at Structure 2017, he volunteered that Istio’s service-mesh technology might one day be as important as Kubernetes, the open-source container orchestration project originally developed at Google that became the cloud-native darling of 2017. Istio has now reached the 1.0 stage, which Google said makes it ready for production use, as opposed to kicking its tires on the testing server. Google will also offer a managed Istio service through Google Cloud, which will allow customers to enjoy managed connections between microservices as well as secure logging for companies with compliance requirements.
And speaking of Kubernetes, Google is introducing a version of Kubernetes called GKE On-Prem designed specifically for customers who need to manage their own data centers. The idea is to let potential hybrid cloud customers get used to Kubernetes within their own environments before taking the plunge on the public cloud, obviously with Google’s help.
These new features, plus a few others that will be showcased over the course of Google CEO Diane Greene’s keynote address Tuesday, are part of what Google is calling the Cloud Services Platform. This gives customers a single management user interface “that puts all of your cloud management of Kubernetes and Istio in one place,” Hölzle said during the opening keynote at Google Cloud Next.
Google is betting that customers will be more interested in an open-source approach to a central cloud management system, rather than vendor-specific management features that are hard to move away from if you want to pursue a multicloud strategy. In doing this, however, it is using open-source as a marketing vehicle for its for-profit cloud efforts, and this type of vendor-driven approach to open source can be off-putting to some developers.
Google also announced that AutoML Vision, the first service in its Cloud AutoML cloud-based artificial intelligence toolkit introduced earlier this year, is now in public beta. AutoML Vision allows users to write applications that can detect and sort images into several different categories.
(Editor’s note: This post was updated as more information became available.)