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How Google Is Trying to Take This Cloud Technology Mainstream

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Google, which is trying to show that its public cloud computing infrastructure is ready for big businesses, and Mirantis, a smaller vendor pushing the use of the OpenStack cloud framework, are working together to ensure OpenStack can work with Google’s Kubernetes management software.

Yes, it sounds like gobbledygook. (More details are here). But the general idea is that Google wants the Kubernetes technology it uses to manage and deploy software applications on its own massive data center infrastructure to be adopted by other companies. Last year, Google offered Kubernetes to the world at large.

“We’re trying to create a basic platform on-premises that looks like the platforms that exist in the cloud,” Craig McLuckie, a group product manager at Google (GOOG) told Fortune. “Our interest is to get on-premises customers as close to the way Google runs workloads internally. That can reduce barriers to transition to the cloud.”

With Google playing catchup to cloud leader Amazon Web Services and runner-up Microsoft Azure, one can see why Google wants to grease the skids from corporate data center to Google Cloud Platform.

Mirantis and Intel (INTC), one of its investors, are both long-time members of the OpenStack Foundation, along with much of the entire tech world, including Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), Cisco (CSCO), IBM (IBM), and Rackspace. Google joined the foundation a year ago.

All of these players want six-year-old OpenStack to be the technologies many customers use to run their own data centers in a “cloud-like” way. That means that the companies’ IT infrastructure can automatically power up and down as needed to meet changing requirements.

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Currently, there is a divide between the public clouds offered by Amazon Web Services (AMZN), Microsoft Azure (MSFT), Google Cloud Platform, and companies that run their own privately-operated corporate infrastructures.

That’s a rift Microsoft is trying to bridge with its delayed Azure Stack, a sort of mini-me Azure that customers can run in their own data centers. The case is the same with Google and Kubernetes. Many speculate that AWS will do something similar to placate corporate customers who want to run some workloads internally and not on Amazon’s data centers.

OpenStack shows promise, and it is running in production in some shops, such as Ebay (EBAY) and Walmart (WMT). But it’s safe to say that adoption still lags expectations.

Mirantis is something of a rabble-rouser in this world because it started out cobbling together various OpenStack components from other providers, but then changed course to offer its own competitive version of OpenStack.

“Here’s the problem,” said Boris Renski, chief marketing officer for Mirantis. “OpenStack is hard to run once it’s installed. If it stops working, no one at a normal company knows how to fix it, patch it, or upgrade it. That’s why enterprises have struggled to get value out of it. Meanwhile, Google over the last 20 years came up with a very Google-specific approach to managing distributed applications. That is Kubernetes.”

While Kubernetes was developed to run what are called software containers, with this help from Mirantis, it will now also run and manage OpenStack components, whether or not they are containers.

A container packages up all the software, database services, memory, and more into a self-contained unit that can then—in theory—run anywhere. What is needed then is a way to move and manage multiple containers. That’s the task that Kubernetes, as well as products from companies like Mesosphere, CoreOS, and others, are attacking.

For more, read: Why Tech Alliances Are Like Sausage

The nitty-gritty here is that Mirantis will tweak Fuel, an OpenStack lifecycle management component developed to work with Kubernetes. There may be some controversy here because Fuel slightly competes with Magnum, another OpenStack lifecycle management tool. The beauty and curse of big open-source software projects is that they involve lots of contributors, which means that different—and sometimes competing—tools will crop up.

Jay Lyman, analyst at The 451 Group said this collaboration shows “the changing role for OpenStack with the advent of modern container software such as Docker.”

“There was previously a lot of focus and discussion of containers running on top of OpenStack with Magnum, but the focus seems to be shifting more to containers running beneath OpenStack to manage it. This collaboration reinforces that.”

Jonathan Donaldson, Intel’s vice president of software defined networking, said cloud vendors have to help customers deploy the way they want, and that means they have to accommodate hybrid clouds, which let some workloads run internally on company-controlled resources and some in the public cloud.

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The bottom line is that despite all the talk about cloud computing, only a small fraction of current IT spending—probably 5% to 10%—is now devoted to cloud. But no one expects that to remain the case. Gartner expects the market for public cloud services to grow 16.5% this year to $204 billion, up from $175 billion in 2015.

Projects like this one by Mirantis could make it easier for companies to divvy up workloads so that some run internally on their own hardware and some in the public cloud. It could also make it more palatable to migrate these workloads to the cloud altogether.