Amazon has taken another step to appeal directly to a key VMware customer: the virtual machine administrator. Earlier this year, the company told VM administrators they could manage their VMware virtual machines in the AWS cloud using the familiar VMware vCenter management console -- all they needed to do was set up an AWS Management Center for vCenter.
Now that setup process is even easier, according to AWS's Jeff Barr, chief cloud evangelist. The initial version of the management center required a VM administrator to set up Active Directory Federation Services or another Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) system. SAML is a standard XML data formatting language for authentication and authorization systems for end-users.
In a May 30 blog post Barr wrote, "If you are already using VMware vCenter to manage your virtualized environment, you will be comfortable in this new environment right away, even if you are new to AWS."
User feedback, however, indicated that it wasn't all that easy.
AWS's Derek Lyon, principal product manager for the EC2 cloud, explained the value of Amazon's recent enhancements to its Management Center for vCenter in a blog post on Oct. 2:
We recently added a new setup option that significantly reduces the complexity of setting up the portal. You now have the option to use the portal without having to setup SAML integration yourself. To do this, you can use the AWS Connector as an authentication proxy...
When you use this option, you eliminate the complexity that comes with configuring the single sign-on infrastructure yourself. This is significantly simpler to set up...
AWS Connector allows a vCenter administrator to sign in through a proxy as an AWS service administrator, obtain temporary security credentials, and proceed to manage AWS workloads for accounts covered by the credentials from the administrator's vCenter client console. AWS documentation on the steps involved can be found here.
[Want to learn more about how AWS launched its AWS Management Center for vCenter? See Amazon Opens On-Ramp For VMware Workloads.]
Amazon's renewed interest in VMware workloads comes at a time that VMware is attempting to get some lift under its own vCloud Air hybrid cloud service. One of its main advantages, according to general manager Bill Fathers, is the ease with which vCloud Air can import and export VMware virtual machines. Amazon's interest in importing VMs brought a sharp response from VMware blogger Chris Wolf, CTO for the Americas, as Amazon first launched its Management Center for vCenter.
In a June 2 blog post titled "Don't Be Fooled By Import Tools Disguised as Hybrid Cloud Management," Wolf wrote, "Administrators will find this [Amazon] tool useful for importing virtual machines into Amazon and conducting basic management tasks from VMware vCenter. However, as I've said before, the virtual machine is the easy part."
Wolf listed some deficiencies with the Management Center portal: There is no easy way to move workloads back to one of your data centers, or to another cloud provider; existing software licenses don't apply in AWS's EC2; a user can't "orchestrate" VMs across public and private clouds; and policies can't be enforced across multiple clouds.
Wolf concluded, "There are many things that the AWS Management Portal does not do that should lead you to question its strategic value."
But Amazon continues to invest in importing VMware virtual machines, as evidenced by its current enhancements to Management Center for vCenter. With VMware continuing to dominate virtualization in the data center and Amazon dominating public cloud services, the two giants are likely to be butting heads for many months over where VMware virtual machines run best.
Amazon may continue to enhance its VMware workload migration tools until it addresses some of the problems Wolf cites. Until then, however, it will remain easier to get into the Amazon cloud than to get out: Moving data in is free, but moving it out costs $0.12 per GB for the first 10 TB.
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