Google revs up Container Engine to drive Docker in its cloud

Hosted Kubernetes tools aim to help devs build cloud-first apps

Google has gone public with its love for containers and Docker in recent months, and to help its cloud customers get in on the action, on Tuesday it announced a hosted version of its Kubernetes container orchestration software for use with Google Compute Engine (GCE).

Speaking at the Google Cloud Platform Live event in San Francisco, Greg DeMichillie, the Chocolate Factory's director of cloudy product management, reiterated that "everything runs in a container" at Google, and said that cloud customers should be thinking along similar lines.

"You can start to think about application development in a completely different way, and we think containers are going to be the essential technology," DeMichillie said.

To this end, the newly announced Google Container Engine – GKE for short, to distinguish it from Compute Engine – offers a way for customers to run Docker containers on virtual machines inside Google's cloud, complete with automated management of cluster provisioning and maintenance, scaling, and operational logistics like logging and health management.

The idea is to get cloud customers thinking beyond simply moving existing workloads out of their own data centers and into the cloud, to actually developing new applications in a cloud-first way.

"If you treat containers as the same kind of client-server model on which you've been developing your applications, that's not going to get you that agility that you need to respond in today's marketplace," said Google VP of engineering Jörg Heilig at a press conference following Tuesday's event keynote.

Micro-services ahoy

Rather than relying on the traditional software stack, the new development model that Google and other container cheerleaders envision involves composing applications out of clusters of "micro-services" that combine to provide the full functionality. Docker makes it easier to deploy these micro-services, and GKE will make it easier to manage and orchestrate them on the Google's cloud platform.

"We believe that this is an area where we have a lot of experience," DeMichillie told The Reg. "We have a lot to offer. What it comes down to is that we have something to offer customers that few other companies have that sort of production-level of experience with."

And indeed Google does. The software that powers GKE, Kubernetes, has its roots in the Chocolate Factory's own IT infrastructure but was later spun off as an open source project. Since then CoreOS, Docker, IBM, Mesosphere, Microsoft, Red Hat, SaltStack, and VMware have all contributed their own additions to the project, making it a truly vendor-agnostic system.

While Kubernetes will work with any Docker-enabled cloud, however, GKE is a Google exclusive. Last week, a Google spokesman told El Reg that the online ad-slinger plans to offer its customers a "highly differentiated experience" for Kubernetes, as compared to other companies' clouds.

But it might not stay that way forever. Asked whether GKE might someday allow customers to move workloads across multiple clouds, DeMichillie wouldn't commit to anything, but said, "Obviously the notion of workload mobility and taking workloads and moving them between cloud environments is core to the vision of Kubernetes as a whole."

For now, however, GKE is classified as an alpha-quality product, with lots of room for spit n' polish. The good news there is that Google will not charge anything for GKE itself during the alpha period. Customers will only be billed for the GCE instances that they spin up as nodes in their Kubernetes clusters, based on standard GCE rates.

Google has posted more information about GKE here, and if you'd like to dive right in and start your free trial, you can do so here. ®

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