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Multicloud Storage

Hybrid Deployment on Google Cloud: Meet Google Anthos

Cloud users today are expanding their deployments not only beyond the data center to just one cloud platform but to multiple clouds. As users need ways to orchestrate such complex deployments, the cloud providers have begun to offer more options for multicloud storage and services. In Google Cloud, that option is Anthos.

In this post we’ll take a closer look at Anthos, how it can be used for hybrid and multicloud deployments, and the added value that Cloud Volumes ONTAP can bring to Anthos.

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The Hybrid Cloud Challenge

People and organizations across the world have embraced the cloud. One way or another, they are leveraging cloud services ranging from infrastructure-as-a-service to fully managed software-as-a-service. However, a full-on public cloud-only technology strategy can be incredibly challenging within large corporations, due to the amount of technology landscape and culture involved. This is especially true when using hybrid or multicloud storage.

There can be many roadblocks enterprises run into when trying to modernize their IT infrastructure or develop modern digital solutions. A few examples include large legacy infrastructures, compliance and regulations requirements keeping data on-prem or in specific geographical locations, complex hybrid and multi cloud architectures, among others.

Anthos is Google’s solution to bridge the gap between their cloud platform services and other cloud and on-premises environments, addressing these complex challenges.

Introducing Google Anthos

Google announced Anthos as part of their Google Cloud Platform to address IT modernization needs, including hybrid or multicloud platform deployment strategies.

Anthos is an application management platform designed for different types of workloads—brand new applications or modernizing existing ones—and it enables those workloads to run anywhere in a consistent manner while providing a seamless developer experience, regardless of the target deployment environment. Anthos was built on top of popular open-source projects such as Kubernetes, Istio, and Knative, which enables application developers to take advantage of the tooling already available for these tech ecosystems.

Enabling workloads to run seamlessly across on-premises systems and public cloud is not very common, yet is not entirely new either—several companies have interesting services in this space, such as Red Hat OpenShift, AWS Storage Gateway, Microsoft Azure Arc, Azure StorSimple, AWS Outposts, VMWare Cloud Foundation and AWS ECS/EKS Anywhere.

While the concept is rather similar, the technical approach varies greatly. Google Anthos was built on top of Kubernetes, leveraging its native capabilities plus extending them with some familiar Google Cloud Platform managed services such as Stackdriver (centralized monitoring, logging and metrics), Cloud Build (continuous integration/continuous delivery), Apigee (API management), and Cloud Run (a serverless approach using containers).

Kubernetes at Its Core

At the very core, Anthos was fully built based on Kubernetes. If you are familiar with Kubernetes (or simply referred to as K8s), this shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, Kubernetes was created and developed initially by Google itself (codename Project Seven of Nine and influenced by their Borg system) and later on made available as an open-source project via the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

In a nutshell, Kubernetes enables the orchestration of containers, plus their deployment, scalability and management using automation. A container is a way to package an application independently from the infrastructure and operating system. It follows the mantra of “write once, run anywhere,” thereby providing application isolation and making it extremely portable and vendor neutral.

Container technology itself has also evolved greatly in the past few years, mostly propelled by the gigantic success and popularity of the Docker container tools.

How Does Anthos Work in Hybrid or Multicloud Architectures?

Anthos leverages Kubernetes to provide a seamless hybrid experience, using the Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) within Google Cloud Platform and the GKE On-Prem for data centers.

Since under the hood there is a fully featured Kubernetes cluster inside Anthos, there is a certain inherent degree of vendor neutrality and portability. That means Anthos can be enabled in other public cloud providers such as AWS and Microsoft Azure by leveraging Google Kubernetes Engine. This maximizes Anthos’s potential and multicloud platform properties. On top of Kubernetes and its native features, the Anthos platform provides a few additional unified layers across all the environments: 

  • Platform operations layer: Enables storage, container runtime and network connectivity.
  • Network and security operations layer: Enables policies, controls, and compliance (e.g. identity management)
  • Application operations layer: Enables fast and modern application development.

For a seamless developer experience in the application operations layer, Anthos leverages Google Cloud managed services and Istio, another open-source project pioneered by Google. Istio is a service mesh designed to work with distributed applications and simplify development operations. It is a critical component for Anthos, because it enables visibility, security, policies and easy software delivery and roll out.

Screen Shot 2021-11-07 at 10.55.56Anthos multi-layered approach

This layered combination makes Anthos extremely useful for engineers who are required to use both on-premises and public cloud resources, to use the modern toolset from Google Cloud Platform, and to simplify the application development experience and seamless hybrid deployment.

Can Traditional VMs Become Containers?

Although some on-premises applications are based on container technology, the typical on-premises infrastructure isn't. When thinking on-premises, we are usually expecting virtual machines and application monoliths. Therefore, the key question is this: can virtual machines become containers?

Typically, this wouldn’t be possible in a simple way, yet, but Google is challenging this with the release of Migrate for Anthos toolkit. This makes it possible to convert workloads (including physical servers and workloads that were not designed for containerized architecture) directly to containers and Kubernetes. This is a key factor to enable the adoption of this technology. However, just because in theory you can migrate any workload, doesn’t mean you should. Containers have several limitations due to the intrinsic nature of the technology and they shouldn’t be treated as a silver bullet.

What Use Cases are Good for Anthos?

The use cases where Anthos shines are the most obvious ones: workloads that you would normally run in containers and Google Kubernetes Engine but that for a given reason would benefit more from being on-premises or in other public cloud environments. Of course, much more than simply hosting workloads, Anthos provides a holistic experience in application development, and that includes running workloads (on-prem and cloud) using Kubernetes.

The reasons to keep workloads on-premises or across multiple environments may vary, but mostly such requirements are due to non-technical constraints. It could be due to security and compliance (e.g., your system needs to run in a certain location by law) or perhaps data locality (e.g., your service needs to be in the same region as a certain datastore due to latency constraints). Therefore, it is crucial to truly understand the different business and technical tradeoffs of this approach.

Since Anthos is container based, it’s essentially tied up with computational workloads that can run in containers. A computational workload that requires certain specific hardware capabilities and that runs on bare metal is therefore excluded.

How about data storage systems? Well, Anthos does not really address this issue. While containers can of course have data persistency using local volumes, these are not really adequate for large database systems or network file systems. To mitigate this, Anthos is available with plugin support for certain on-premises storage solutions such as the NetApp HCI, but that is of course only part of the challenge.

NetApp is an Anthos Ready storage partner, a qualification by Google to partners who can provide a seamless storage experience. When addressing stateful container workloads—which require data to be permanently stored and available in case the container fails—it is crucial to understand the underlying data storage systems and how to use persistent volumes.

The data storage system is responsible for providing adequate data protection, such as backup/restore and high availability, and other data management features.

This is a scenario where a Google Cloud deployment with Cloud Volumes ONTAP and the NetApp Trident provisioner can be worthwhile. Cloud Volumes ONTAP built-in storage capabilities add advanced storage management functionality that is important when dealing with stateful container workloads. Features such as space efficient snapshots, storage cloning, high availability, disaster recovery capabilities, and data replication between clouds and hybrid deployments can make a huge difference, especially in enterprise environments and critical workloads.

Conclusion: It’s More Than Hybrid Cloud Deployment

As more companies embrace the cloud, it’s becoming obvious that there is no one approach to the technology. This is making multicloud and hybrid platforms more relevant, and where services such as Anthos and NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can be real differentiators and game changing options.

As mentioned, Google Anthos tackled this problem by leveraging their internal know-how and expertise in Kubernetes and building bridges to other ecosystems. While not a silver bullet for hybrid deployments, it does address several key parts, namely associated with computational workloads and the seamless developer experience. For storage and overall data persistence at scale, you should explore Cloud Volumes ONTAP on Google Cloud. Also, the very same technology is available for AWS and Azure.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP was built for data management and providing top-notch enterprise-level functionalities such as storage efficiency, data protection and cloning, and hybrid deployment.

Learn more about the benefits in Using Google Cloud Anthos with Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

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Cloud Solution Architect

Technology Advisor