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Cisco-Google partnership smooths onramp to hybrid cloud environments—and innovation

The Cisco-Google partnership enables IT pros to innovate faster with Kubernetes containers for hybrid cloud environments. 

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As companies try to innovate, IT infrastructure doesn’t have to get in the way.

An organization determined to move faster and test its ideas needs an IT infrastructure that provides the foundation for experimentation. But setting up IT infrastructure to enable that experimentation traditionally has been time-consuming and complex. It could take weeks or months. What’s worse: A cloud test environment and a company’s on-premises test environment might not match. Configurations and security policies likely differed. As a result, experimentation could be an operational albatross.

The burden of IT infrastructure is what containers were designed to address. An alternative architecture to virtualization, containers have gained favor because they combine all the elements needed to run an application—the dependencies, libraries, configuration files and so on—into one package. Containers enable IT to test apps more quickly, more securely and in a more on-demand fashion than is possible with virtualization.

That’s why nearly 60% of respondents to a 2017 survey were considering Kubernetes containers (an open source platform initially developed by Google) in production environments. In the same survey, 56% of respondents chose Kubernetes containers to promote greater speed in the business. And 32% of respondents to a 451 Research survey said that they use containers for their mixed, hybrid cloud environments.

Given the enterprise appetite for Kubernetes containers, the Cisco-Google partnership, launched in October 2017, aims to smooth the way for migration to hybrid cloud environments generally and to foster innovation through Kubernetes containers specifically. As a result of the Cisco-Google partnership, IT pros can access Kubernetes containers on-premises or in the cloud without having to contort themselves to make configuration adjustments based on the environment.

At Cisco Live 2018 Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene elaborated on the benefits of the Cisco-Google partnership using Kubernetes containers.

“We want to bring the same way to run your applications on-prem as in the cloud,” Greene said. “We think it’s going to let you accomplish things in a much faster, more productive way.”

The value of the Cisco-Google partnership

For various stakeholders within the enterprise, Greene said, modern technologies for application development can help companies gain an edge and stay competitive, despite the chaos of moving at a quick pace. Greene outlined the benefits for four key stakeholders in IT departments:

Networking engineers. It’s hard to experiment when you’re bogged down with IT operations, Greene acknowledged—even more so when operations are dictated by legacy IT infrastructure. But, Greene said, the hybrid cloud approach to Kubernetes containers gives networking engineers flexibility as the business innovates and the company modernizes IT infrastructure.

‘You can take an incremental approach,” Greene said. “It’s a nondisruptive way to keep disrupting what you’re capable of doing in a fast-moving company,” Greene said.

Developers. For developers, modern hybrid cloud environments enable productivity. “The Kubernetes environment and Istio [an open source platform to manage microservices] takes care of a lot of things developers used to have to worry about,” she said. “Now they can focus on the business of the company,” Greene said.

Operations teams. With Kubernetes, there is less manual provisioning and setup. “It gives you a consistent environment,” Greene said.

Security professionals. Similarly, for security professionals, greater consistency among IT environments can promote greater security. “To have one consistent model across everywhere that you’re running is huge,” Greene said. But it doesn’t come at the cost of developer agility, she said. “You don’t have these lowest-common denominator rules that get in the way of innovation.”

Challenges with Kubernetes containers

At the same time, Kubernetes containers can pose some challenges that companies should consider.

  1. Security controls. Containers can bring new security considerations and augment the attack surface open to security breaches. Access restrictions and other safeguards should be considered to prevent breaches via containerization. Data from “The New Stack Analysis of Cloud Native Computing Foundation Survey” found that 46% of organizations cited security as an issue.
  2. Outmoded processes. Because containers can be created rapidly and are ephemeral, IT operations teams often need to adapt their processes to adjust to this newfound velocity. Teams may need to implement greater levels of automation to accommodate containerization. And it’s likely that they will need to adapt their monitoring and logging processes.
  3. Infrastructure optimization. To take full advantage of containers, on-premises infrastructure needs to be made elastically available through application programming interfaces.
  4. Complexity. Containers differ from virtual machines, so lifecycle management and change management needs to be managed differently, experts say.

Wanted: Application developer skills

Robbins acknowledged that it’s still early days for adoption of Kubernetes containers and other technologies that bring application development and IT infrastructure closer to each other. He asked Greene how developers, partners and customers could get a comfort level with some of these technologies.

Greene agreed, citing Gartner’s research that, increasingly, application developers are in demand in IT operations.

Training IT professionals and engaging partners that have skills in Kubernetes containers will accelerate adoption. “Building out the ecosystem of people that are knowledgeable is going to address that,” Greene said.

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Lauren Horwitz

Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”