Google ‘Anthos’ and New CEO Turn Up the Heat On Microsoft and Amazon

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In launching a hybrid platform that can solve one of enterprise IT’s most-difficult challenges, Google Cloud has greatly intensified the competitive heat on Microsoft and Amazon. Anthos will set a new level of expectations among business customers, who will soon demand that all of their cloud vendors offer similar capabilities.

Microsoft has long maintained that its hybrid philosophy and solutions are unmatched. But Google’s new Anthos platform will put Azure’s hybrid chops to a severe test: can Microsoft and Azure match Anthos’s ability to run any enterprise application across not only Azure and on-premises systems but also Google Cloud and Amazon’s AWS?

A visual representation of Google Cloud’s Anthos from Urs Hölzle’s blog post announcing the service. (Tap image to read.)

For Amazon, the challenge is even more pointed and potentially more disruptive: whereas Microsoft has a full set of on-premises products and technologies to go along with its Azure cloud, Amazon’s AWS is 100% cloud-native. And its nod to the need for on-premises solutions, called Outposts, won’t be released until later this year.

Google Cloud Rides the Hybrid Cloud Wave

Driving all of this is the indisputable reality that large and mid-sized businesses will insist on blending cloud and on-premises environments for years to come. And any cloud vendors wanting to do serious business with those businesses will very quickly need to offer full-fledged hybrid solutions rather than just a smattering of token services.

For Google Cloud, the launch of Anthos completes a journey that began a few years ago. That’s when the company basically told enterprises that all their old on-premises stuff is just silly—so why not just rip it all out and do things the way Google does them?

Google’s outlook and its offerings have since then come full circle, typified by CEO Thomas Kurian’s frequent comments about the need for the entire Google Cloud organization to have “great empathy” for customers. Empathy for their businesses, their challenges, their IT estates, their competitive challenges and their visions for transformation.

It is in that spirit that Google Cloud launched Anthos. It is very specifically built to allow customers to do what they clearly want to do: run multiple clouds blended with a range of on-premises systems that will be around for years and perhaps decades to come.

What Google Cloud Is Saying About Anthos

Long-time Google technology executive Urs Holzle, who’s pretty much seen it all in his years at the company, offered this perspective in a TechCrunch article by Frederic Lardinois:

“We will support Anthos and AWS and Azure as well, so people get one way to manage their application and that one way works across their on-premise environments and all other clouds,” Google’s senior VP for its technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, explained in a press conference ahead of today’s announcement.

“You can use one consistent approach — one open-source based approach — across all environments,” Hölzle said. “I can’t really stress how big a change that is in the industry, because this is really the stack for the next 20 years, meaning that it’s not really about the three different clouds that are all randomly different in small ways. This is the way that makes these three cloud — and actually on-premise environments, too — look the same.”

Now, can Google live up to that suggestion that Anthos is “the stack for the next 20 years”? Or to the promise made by Google Cloud’s Jennifer Lin that Anthos will make the modernization of apps faster and easier than anyone ever thought possible?

Big Promises From Google Cloud

While those claims are clearly up for debate, I think the more-significant issue is how Google and specifically Kurian have used the launch of Anthos to reframe the discussion that major cloud vendors will soon be having with customers. Because those customers will soon make the promises made about Anthos the standards that all cloud vendors must now meet or, in the near future exceed:

  • enabling all applications to run on-premises, in Google Cloud, in AWS or in Azure without a single line of code being modified;
  • that this new type of write-once, run-everywhere model will endure for two decades; and
  • that app modernization will suddenly become faster and easier than most people ever imagined.

As daunting as those capabilities are, they will soon become table stakes in the all-in Cloud Wars. It became very clear yesterday on the opening day of Next that Google Cloud will no longer be vague or unclear about its ambitions: as its new slogan proclaimed all over San Francisco last week, “a cloud like no other.”

And some huge global corporations have certainly begun buying what Google Cloud is selling.

What Google Cloud Customers Are Saying About Anthos

Global financial-services powerhouse HSBC wanted to ensure that its move to hybrid cloud would end up making its IT environments less complex while also lowering expenses associated with its big-data analytics.

In its press release announcing Anthos, Google quoted HSBC group CIO Darryl West as saying, “We needed a consistent platform to deploy both on-premises and in the cloud. Google Cloud’s software-based approach for managing hybrid environments provided us an innovative, differentiated solution that was able to be deployed quickly for our customers.”

And Siemens head of research Martin Lehofer had this to say in that release: “Anthos is a great fit for us. It gives us a unified management view of our hybrid deployment and a consistent platform to run our workloads across environments.”

Some of the software companies that will run on Anthos. (via Google Cloud)
Looking Ahead in the Cloud Wars

So as I see it, here’s how the big Anthos announcement nets out:

For Google, it’s a clear indication of its new customer-centric mindset and its all-in commitment to making its cloud business a true rival—rather than a philosophical one—of Microsoft and Amazon in the Cloud Wars.

For Microsoft and Amazon, the challenge is how to respond to this new reality and this dramatically heightened set of customer expectations. Microsoft’s got the easier job on that front. It will be very interesting to see whether Amazon chooses to concede that the blended world of cloud and on-premises will be with us for a long time to come.

For customers, this is a spectacular boost. The full-fledged commitment of Google Cloud will ratchet up the competition in the Cloud Wars to unprecedented levels. That will lead to more great choices for customers, more innovation, and more value for their investments. It may even bring about a fairly rapid resolution to a complex challenge that has made digital transformation more time-consuming and more expensive than those companies hoped it would be.

As always in the Cloud Wars, the big winners are the customers. Kudos to Google Cloud for helping customers to this most-recent victory.


(Disclosure: Google Cloud paid for my hotel room during the Next event.)


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