Google Brings Containers To Next-Gen Cloud Offerings

Google's cloud team Tuesday unveiled and touted new technologies coming to the Google Cloud Platform, starting with the Linux containers they believe will host the next generation of cloud-native applications.

Hundreds of developers, technology partners and channel partners attending the one-day Google Cloud Platform Live event in San Francisco heard a keynote in which Google execs and engineers described a road map to becoming the premier platform for development and innovation.

"We are working very hard to make Google the best possible cloud for mobile application development," Google's Vice President of Engineering Joerg Heilig told the attendees.

[Related: Google Offers CoreOS On Compute Engine Cloud]

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"Our goal is to build for you the most innovative cloud platform possible," Heilig said.

Brian Stevens, Google's vice president of cloud platforms, told attendees the frequency of IT disruptions is increasing -- there have been a few big ones over the last 15 years, he said.

The next disruption will be the emergence of Linux containers, Stevens said, a technology that at least conceptually is very simple and "couldn't have come at a better time."

"You're taking an application and you're encapsulating it inside of a single file," Stevens explained.

Leading the container revolution is Docker, which burst onto the scene 18 months ago and quickly "became the de facto industry standard for that file representation of what a container looks like," Stevens said.

The technology holds myriad benefits for developers and system administrators.

Developers can package applications and all their dependencies without worrying about the nuances of the specific platform; containers are easy to spin up and tear down, offering a quick development cycle. And for system administrators, installing an app becomes as easy as copying a single file onto the system.

Google is the only cloud provider that uses containerization as the underlying technology for its cloud services and contributed the technology that facilitates containers to the Linux kernel. Each week, Google launches two billion containers.

"Google has been using containers before the word even existed," Stevens said.

The first Google Cloud product was App Engine, a Platform-as-a-Service offering.

"Since Day 1, App Engine has been using containers to achieve high scalability for the most demanding web applications," said Greg DeMichillie, Google's director of product management.

"We're at the beginning of an even bigger disruption. And we believe that containers are going to be essential to that disruption," DeMichillie told attendees.

Containers will shift perception of collections of servers to individual clusters, DeMichillie said.

"A data center is not a collection of computers. A data center is a computer," he said.

Google has been advancing container technology through the Kubernetes project, an API that simplifies the task of managing fleets of containers. He said Google decided to open-source Kubernetes because of its importance in driving container adoption.

"At Google, everything we run runs inside containers. What's exciting now with Docker is the technology is opening up so companies everywhere can take advantage of them," DeMichillie said.

Kubernetes offers the ability to orchestrate containers and is based on 10 years of experience at Google building container orchestration machines. The project has added Microsoft, VMware, IBM, Red Hat and other vendors as partners.

At Monday's event, Google announced a fully hosted version of Kubernetes called Container Engine -- abbreviated GKE -- to avoid confusion with Compute Engine. GKE integrates command line tools and a graphical user interface.

The service, now in open alpha testing, simplifies creating and managing large clusters of containers using Kubernetes and Docker.

NEXT: New Features

DeMichillie also shared other new features coming to the Google Cloud Platform.

He said one Linux distribution "has been noticeably missing" from the platform, then earned a round of applause announcing a partnership with Canonical to introduce Ubuntu to the Google cloud.

Google will be rolling out in beta an autoscaling feature and adding local SSD for high IOPS workloads for Compute Engine, its IaaS offering.

It also will be adding networking optimization features through Google Cloud Interconnect, including VPN-based connectivity that will go into Alpha testing in a couple weeks, a dedicated secure connection to data centers through a partnership with Equinix, and direct peering for direct network connections.

On the mobile side, the acquisition of Firebase has imparted a platform for mobile app development. And Google also revealed upcoming big data tools for advanced analytic functionality.

All the new features are about enabling a new type of cloud, one that creates new possibilities for partners but also asks them to rethink their business strategies.

"If you're thinking of cloud today as a cheaper, faster way of doing what you're already doing, you're not getting all the value out of the cloud that you could," DeMichillie said.

Stevens said Google's innovations signify a shift beyond the first generation of the cloud, when the model for delivering IT was still largely the same as it had been in the pre-cloud era.

At first, the cloud was "largely about moving a virtual machine into someone else's data center," he said, allowing users to "provision whole systems with an API instead of a purchase order."

While there were efficiencies and savings to be gained, it offered the same familiar set of choices as legacy systems, and IT departments were still bearing the lion's share of the burden of administering IT assets.

Google wants to "relieve IT administrators" of those burdens by changing what users are enabled to do, Stevens said.

To encourage new users to give the features a run, Google is offering a trial program: $300 in credits they can use for any of those services.