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6/4/2014
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VMware Fires Back At Amazon 'Import Portal'

Amazon threatens VMware turf with a new Connector and Import Portal. VMware's response: Not true hybrid cloud.

6 Models Of The Modern Data Center
6 Models Of The Modern Data Center
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It didn't take VMware long to respond to Amazon's incursion into the vCenter data center management console. CTO for the Americas Chris Wolf, VMware's January recruit from the Gartner Group, answered Monday in a blog post.

In "Don't Be Fooled By Import Tools Disguised As Hybrid Cloud Management" Wolf wrote plenty to support his headline. It's nothing new for one hypervisor supplier to build a means of converting some other hypervisor's virtual machines to its own format, Wolf noted. Amazon previously had that capability for VMware ESX Server VMs, and VMware itself has built an ability to convert Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines into those that can be managed with vSphere management tools. But the key passage that illustrates how VMware will resist Amazon raids on its customer strongholds was:

The true challenge is trying to manage workloads deployed to different data center or cloud environments requiring new API integration or new operational management tooling. IT decision makers want a consistent management and QA experience no matter where they deploy a workload.

If you've already got a consistent set of APIs, and you're already using a sophisticated tool, such as vCenter Log Insight, why would you give that advantage up by moving to Amazon Web Services? You'd lose the ability to know in detail what your workload is doing or to predict what capacity to assign for consistent operation, Wolf suggested.

[Want to learn more about Amazon's bid for VMware-based virtual machines? See Amazon Opens On-Ramp For VMware Workloads.]

Wolf said he talks to plenty of customers, and a common complaint is that once they've set up tasks in the public cloud, they're dismayed to find they "cannot be redeployed or migrated anywhere else." While it might be technically possible to do so, there's "always a matter of migration costs outweighing the benefits." Private enterprise often has to meet security and compliance requirements, or distribute a key production software stack to different locations around the world. One public cloud provider won't get them to where they want to go.

"The organizations that I speak with daily are demanding the following... Flexibility and choice. Today's platform decision may not be the best option in two years, or perhaps even a few months," he wrote.

"When you get past the marketing," he continued, without saying whose marketing, "...converting the virtual machine, migrating the app and the data is the easy part. Rebuilding the management infrastructure is anything but 'easy.' " Trying to provide similar management with different and perhaps more limited tools in a new environment can be something like a game of Jenga, he warned. Take away one management dependency, "and the whole service stack can come tumbling down."

Image: Ed Garcia on Flickr.
Image: Ed Garcia on Flickr.

Given that moving workloads is something of a Jenga contest, the enterprise architects of hybrid cloud "want as few variables as possible," and that means both host hypervisors and management tools. The more involved, "the more costly automation becomes at scale."

In the second half of the blog, Wolf points to Amazon's May 30 announcement of AWS Portal for vCenter and AWS Connector for vCenter. The portal can be used for importing a VMware virtual machine into EC2 and conducting basic management tasks, conceded Wolf. But he raised the following objections to VMware customers actually using it:

  • There is no easy way to move workloads back to one of your data centers, or to another cloud provider
  • You cannot use your existing software licenses
  • You cannot automate and orchestrate across private and public clouds
  • You cannot enforce policy governance across multi-clouds
  • You lose all of the seamless third party integrations deployed through the VMware Solution Exchange
    [The exchange is where both it and third parties, such as HP, ExtraHop Networks, Hytrust, and VCE, offer management packs for specific purposes.]

"There are many things that the AWS Management Portal does not do that should lead you to question its strategic value," Wolf wrote.

Private clouds are moving rapidly from concept to production. But some fears about expertise and integration still linger. Also in the Private Clouds Step Up issue of InformationWeek: The public cloud and the steam engine have more in common than you might think. (Free registration required.)

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/6/2014 | 7:28:06 AM
Re: Virtual machine formats: Vendor lock-in, or at least tie-in
I think part of the problem here is not that Amazon is looking to pry their way into the enterprise and compete with VMWare directly.  It looks more like the strategy is to move virtual machines out of the enterprise and into IAAS solutions.  It's hard to fight against someone who really isn't in your market when they come in and start siphoning customers away.  Virtualization is still young enough that there can be some market overlap and some shuffling between those markets.  While the import portal is great for those who are already looking to move to an IAAS solution I think VMWare sees this more as a tool to tap into the private cloud market not to enhance it.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/5/2014 | 1:41:59 PM
Without export as well as import, VMware is in the pivot position
Joe Emison makes some very strong points and he's right, as far as the state of the art goes today in cloud computing. It's difficult to do hybrid and best stay away from ambitious hybrid interactions, at least until it becomes a surer thing. But it doesn't have to be this way. The import mechanism, I believe, is based on the Open Virtualization Format, a DMTF standard agreed to by multiple vendors in 2010. With a little more work, a standard could be established for export as well. Without an export standard, VMware is going to be the party that makes import/exporft easy, provided it's a VMware cloud.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 10:28:10 AM
Re: Virtual machine formats: Vendor lock-in, or at least tie-in
That's also what I am afraid of - in cloud era, everything should be seamless and shared for convenience. But the reality is that, different silos start to form, especially among IaaS vendors - the hypervisor is propriateary and difficult to do import/export. I am not sure how this trend will develop further but I do hope we will not run into cloud silos.
JoeEmison
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JoeEmison,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 8:31:47 AM
Why are we optimizing for "true hybrid cloud"?
I find VMware's response amusing because it shows how little VMware understands about actual, good cloud architecture. (Of note, Mathew Lodge, who works for VMware in this space, is one of the smartest people I've ever interviewed on the cloud and other modern technologies--they should definitely put him in charge of more stuff there, and perhaps they wouldn't be so far behind).

The idea that "true hybrid cloud" (that is, a cloud where you are splitting applications across public and private clouds) is an enviable "nirvana" is insane. True hybrid is very, very hard to do properly, and, because of this, should generally be avoided if at all possible,  Instead, having separate public and private clouds (have functions entirely contained within one or the other, like dev/test in public cloud and production in private), or having cloudbursting scenarios where you go from private to public only in exceptional circumstances, are far preferable to trying to maintain a constant, solid connection between public and private clouds today.

Amazon, in contrast, is consistent and adamant that you're going to be better off if you go entirely public, using Amazon's regions as your failover.  The problem with Amazon's approach is that it leads to AWS vendor lock-in, but to date, that hasn't really been a huge issue, since they've been the most reliable (by machine hours, certainly) and essentially the cheapest (as far as price per performance has gone, and please don't quote me some benchmarketing that compares AWS's 2008-era m1 family to what some other provider released 6 months ago).  And what you do get with AWS is very functional. As opposed to where you'll be trying to implement a true hybrid cloud today.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 7:56:35 AM
Re: Virtual machine formats: Vendor lock-in, or at least tie-in
There seems to be a lot of talk about this in the past couple of days and I have to say I'm not surprised to see VMWare take this as an attempt to have their customers siphoned away.  I was really hoping we could see this turn into a hybrid management solution but based on the comments in the article it sounds more like we'll see it get harder to do the exports/imports in future versions of hypervisors because everyone is protecting their market share.
TechYogJosh
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TechYogJosh,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/5/2014 | 4:04:57 AM
VMware has all the reasons to be scared
Whatever may be said, this is scary for VMware. Chris also understands that enterprise customers may not look that deeply and may adopt this import portal from AWS in hordes. And once they taste AWS, they may ask for more service which will be detrimental to VMware. Had this development not this important, it would not have made VMware CTO to respond. Amazon, technically brilliant, is also adept at marketing and customer promotion (retail blood?). However, as Chris says, the customers may repent their "current" selection, two years from now, yet, that does not matter. Its the first mover advantage, make deepest inroad by any strategy, and then enterprises would seldom move (intertia and cost of change). Nice smart business strategy, must say.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 3:40:14 AM
Mutual benefit?
Of course, Amazon's move and VMware's response could benefit both companies among some clientele.  Multi-cloud solutions are becoming more popular.  What's more, conversion capabilities such as these enhance externalization capabilities for collaborating -- which can be a big deal in collaboration-heavy industries such as the life sciences.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 12:40:22 PM
Virtual machine formats: Vendor lock-in, or at least tie-in
The cloud vendors seemed to have picked up the practice of VMware and other virtualization vendors: import any promising customer that you can and provide the virtual machine format conversion; export only your own format. It doesn't have to be this way. With third parties, such as RightScale, the export mechanism works just as well as import.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 12:03:26 PM
Jenga
Cloud pros will relate to the Jenga analogy and the related cautions that Wolf makes. One wonders what Amazon's next steps will be. Thoughts?
Multicloud Infrastructure & Application Management
Multicloud Infrastructure & Application Management
Enterprise cloud adoption has evolved to the point where hybrid public/private cloud designs and use of multiple providers is common. Who among us has mastered provisioning resources in different clouds; allocating the right resources to each application; assigning applications to the "best" cloud provider based on performance or reliability requirements.
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