Google Hopes Open Source Will Give Its Cloud A Path To The Enterprise

“Google is not an enterprise company and we are trying to become cognizant of what the enterprise needs,” Craig McLuckie, Google’s product manager in charge of its Kubernetes and Google Container Engine projects, acknowledged during a panel discussion at the OpenStack Foundation’s annual Silicon Valley event today.

It’s no secret that Google has been trying to get more enterprises onto its cloud platform. It’s not been easy, however. The company lacks the traditional sales machinery of its competitors (and the legacy relationships that companies like Microsoft have built for decades).

Instead, Google expects that becoming more open — and releasing more open-source software — will create a path for the company to make inroads into the enterprise. “Google has recognized that open is a better way of building,” McLuckie also noted. “We’ve come to admire the ability of the open-source community to drive innovation.”

He argued that building out in the open not only allows it to build a better product for its customers, but also to enable faster integration cycles. In addition, having an open-source project that involves other companies also allows it to absorb the DNA of these companies into the product.

Kubernetes is probably the prime example for this. After being incubated by Google, the container management and scheduling tool is now quickly becoming a standard component of many container architectures. Google recently donated the code to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, too, so it’s now being developed by a group of companies that includes the likes of Red Hat, Docker, IBM, VMWare, Huawei, Docker and Twitter.

Google wants businesses to be able to move their workloads between clouds (though mostly to its own cloud, of course) and containers and Kubernetes are a key piece of the technology that it believes will enable this once enough of its partners adopt it.

In an interview after his panel, McLuckie also said that Google plans to open source other parts of its infrastructure stack, though he wouldn’t quite say which ones. It’s clear, though, that Google is very serious about going in this direction.

McLuckie acknowledged that it took him a while to convince the company’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure and Google Fellow (and his boss) Urs Hölzle that open sourcing some of Google’s “secret sauce” was something the company should consider, but it seems like there is pretty broad buy-in for this strategy across the company now.

It’s worth noting that others, including industry heavyweights like Microsoft, are also now releasing more of their code into the open-source ecosystem. And there’s a reason for that.

“If you are not building open source, then you are at a competitive disadvantage to those who are,” McLuckie said.