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12/18/2013
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Startup Aims To Streamline Multi-Hypervisor Management

HotLink piggybacks on VMware to let customers manage multiple hypervisor platforms, including Microsoft and Amazon, from VMware's vCenter console.

Startup HotLink takes a unique approach to the rather tricky problem of managing and integrating multiple hypervisor platforms. Just as organizations tend to have more than one operating system in use, they also likely have multiple hypervisors—and the management tools required to run those hypervisors. Then there’s IaaS providers such as Amazon and its EC2 service. EC2 has its own virtualization platform, the Amazon Machine Instance, as well as its own set of management tools.

The result of all these platforms is a bit of an operational kludge that requires administrators to switch from one system to another to monitor and manage a virtual infrastructure. Things get even more tricky if an organization wants to build out a hybrid environment to shift workloads from the premises to a cloud provider.

This is where HotLink comes in to play. Founded in 2010, the company has developed what it calls a transformation engine, which maps all the capabilities of a variety of hypervisors, including vSphere, Hyper-V, Xen, KVM and AMI. It can take any capability from these hypervisors and transform it into information that will be recognized by a third-party management system. The upshot is that one hypervisor management platform can be used to manage disparate hypervisors.

HotLink could have built its own management platform to act as an independent, third-party system--but it didn’t. Instead, it decided to take advantage of VMware’s vCenter, which is widely deployed. Using HotLink software, customers can use vCenter to run, monitor and manage Hyper-V, Xen, KVM and AMI.

A 2013 InformationWeek survey on virtualization management found that 42% of respondents use more than one hypervisor. VMware’s vSphere is most widely used, according to the survey, followed by Microsoft’s Hyper-V. There are also a host of popular open-source hypervisors, such as Xen and KVM, that may live in a test or development lab or even a production system.

Using HotLink, third-party hypervisors and virtual machines appear in vCenter just as vSphere hosts would. “Other resource types appear in an inventory tree and you click on tabs like you would do in normal VSphere environments,” said Lynn LeBlanc, co-founder and CEO.

For example, using HotLink, a customer could manage both its vSphere and Amazon instances from the VMware console. “We treat an Amazon account on par with a VSphere host, and treat the instances in that account the way VMware would treat a VM running on a host,” said LeBlanc. Customers can launch, monitor, move and decommission VMs. HotLink also has software that lets customers move workloads from one hypervisor platform to another.

HotLink can also use Microsoft System Center to manage Hyper-V and Amazon EC2 instances, but at present those are the only platforms supported for System Center.

HotLink requires its own agent, which runs as a virtual machine on each hypervisor you want to manage. HotLink also requires its own server, which runs alongside the vCenter server. The HotLink server is required for features such as converting workloads from one hypervisor platform to the other.

While the product can provide insight into resources being used across multiple platforms, it hasn’t yet tied into tracking costs. For instance, you can see the number of Amazon instances in use, but not how much that usage is costing. LeBlanc says the startup built its own internal tools to track its own Amazon costs, so it’s likely such a capability will make its way into HotLink’s customer offerings.

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