Cloud Blockbuster: Cisco Teams With Google In Massive Enterprise Public Cloud Offensive

Cisco is teaming up with enterprise powerhouse Google in a wide-ranging deal that provides the networking giant with a seamless bridge to next-generation public cloud technologies including the coveted Kubernetes container orchestration platform.

The Cisco and Google Cloud hybrid cloud offering, which will become available in the second half of 2018, opens the door for developers to combine emerging Google Cloud services with Cisco on-premises networking, hyper-converged, and security offerings.

Partners said the blockbuster deal gives Cisco a major competitive advantage as it extends its networking and security offerings into the fast-growing enterprise public cloud marketplace.

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"With Google Cloud, Cisco can remain there to help you with the security, the routing, the orchestration -- it's a very good approach," said Robert Keblusek, CTO of Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner ranked No. 117 on CRN’s 2017 Solution Provider 500 list. "It makes a lot of sense that Cisco wants to essentially network clouds -- provide orchestration, automation, management and security across all these different clouds. The more Cisco allows us to do from a networking and security perspective for customers that are consuming cloud services, the better."

The hybrid solution will extend network policy and configurations to multiple on-premises and cloud environments, including orchestration and lifecycle management of resources, applications, and services.

Kip Compton, vice president of Cisco's Cloud Platform and Solutions Group, said the combined platform would be open and flexible leveraging Google Container Engine with Cisco's broad portfolio of networking, security, hyper-converged and infrastructure solutions.

"From the Cisco side, our HyperFlex hyper-converged platform we'll be adding Kubernetes to support this solution. But we're really bringing our entire portfolio to play," said Compton, in an interview with CRN. "We're going to be enable customers to define policy on the networking side that span the on-premise and Google public cloud environment. Likewise on security."

The solution's hyper-converged platform supports existing application and cloud-native Kubernetes environments. It also leverages Google's Apigee enterprise-class API management, which enables legacy workloads running on premises to connect to the cloud through APIs. Enterprise app developers can securely access cloud APIs, and cloud developers can securely access enterprise APIs and on-premises resources.

Sentinel's Keblusek said managing things like security, automation and artificial intelligence requires partners to "have a deep API access to infrastructures."

"More and more of our investments in our management tools and how we go about automation are through APIs talking to various cloud providers," said Keblusek. "With Google's Apigee, you can take these legacy workloads on-premise to connect. So if I have a legacy workload and I want to connect to another workload or manage something in the cloud, I can tap into the API to help take control of aspects of the cloud that I need."

Faisal Bhutto, vice president of enterprise networking, cloud and cybersecurity for Computex Technology Solutions, a top Cisco partner, said the deal opens the door for Cisco's networking solution into the enterprise world.

"What Cisco is doing is they're saying, 'With this Google Cloud partnership, what if we allowed the CIO the ability to have a Cisco hardware stack running capabilities that are available on Google Cloud, on-premise, which is essentially a bridge to the Google Cloud,' said Bhutto.

Computex's Bhutto also said the partnership is a "big deal" for partners helping customers through digital transformation.

"A play like this will be beneficial to partners who understand what digitization really means to the lines of business of clients," said Bhutto. "The conversation in those accounts is no longer, 'We'll sell you a bigger, faster, data center stack.'" It's: 'How can we interface with your development shops and allow your DevOps folks a platform where they can still write apps, which are elastic and they can modernize their application environment.' That allows partners to be very relevant in the customer environment."

Bhutto said customers are writing and rewriting apps using Kubernetes or Docker, for example, that work well on the Google platform. "Cisco is saying, 'Let us be that conduit for you if you're going to take that path toward digitization. Let us be the conduit to the Google Cloud, conduit to public cloud consumption model.'"

Compton told CRN that Cisco is planning a "full set" of partner enablement and incentives around the solutions when it becomes available in 2018.

"As we transition to more and more software revenue, and more and more software systems sales, it opens up an opportunity for our partners to leverage the APIs and the extensibility of software to create unique solutions and add a lot more value to our customers," said Compton. "I expect a lot of partners will build solutions around this and will use the extensibility to add value and bring their own unique value proposition to their customers on top of and around the Cisco technologies."

The Cisco and Google Cloud solution is available to a limited number of customers during the first part of 2018, with general availability in the second half of the year.

"Our partnership with Google gives our customers the very best cloud has to offer – cloud speed and scale, coupled with enterprise-class security and support," said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, in a statement. "We share a common vision for a hybrid cloud world that delivers the speed of innovation in an open and secure environment to bring the right solutions to our customers."

Sentinel's Keblusek said with Cisco's R&D and acquisition appetite, if the network leader can successfully pull everything together, Cisco could be top of mind when it comes to cloud.

"Cisco could have a very nice broad portfolio so that when you think of, 'How will I communicate with the cloud? How do I secure the cloud?' – Cisco comes top of mind. That opens the opportunity for partners," said Keblusek. "It's up for us as partners to figure out how we fit into those opportunities."

Cisco has been aggressively pushing partners to sell more cloud. Last month, the network leader unveiled a new go-to-market strategy, Cisco's Hybrid Cloud Sales Play, aimed at clarifying how the channel should approach and sell hybrid cloud.

The networking giant already has strategic partnerships with AWS and Microsoft Azure, including an Azure stack offering as well as being sold the AWS Marketplace. In August, the networking giant announced that it was beginning field trials to integrate ACI with the three public cloud infrastructure leaders – AWS, Azure and Google – to make it easy to manage hybrid networks.

"It's pretty clear that's it's a multi-cloud world. So you'll see us meeting our customer needs across a variety of clouds," said Compton, in an interview with CRN. "That said, we're pretty excited about this Google solution -- it is open, it's flexible.… Every enterprise is looking for hybrid cloud capability, and we think this will be the most flexible and open solution on the market. That's very strong for partners."