Blog Post

Is AWS Stealing VMware Users, Improving Their Lives or Both?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Last week, I linked to an Amazon Web Services (s amzn) blog post announcing its new VM Import feature, which lets users upload and convert VMware (s vmw) images into Amazon Machine Images (AMIs). I asked at the time why VMware users would choose AWS for this capability instead of a VMware vCloud partner such as BlueLock or Terremark (s tmrk), especially considering AWS’s suggested disaster recovery use case. It only makes sense that users wanting to back up their VMware environments, or otherwise link them to a public cloud, would want them to remain as VMware instances that can be managed by VMware software or ported back in-house if need be. After getting some feedback and reading the thoughts of a virtualization expert, I’m starting to think AWS might not be targeting interoperability at all.

Looking past the obvious provider bias, BlueLock CEO Pat O’Day makes some good points. He made the following observations in an email to me:

AWS lock-in just got worse. Feels like a one-way street, catapult or Hotel California – you can check in (upload even more now) and can’t check out. The whole point of hybrid cloud is being able to change your mind.


It’s interesting that they use DR as a use case. The biggest challenge with DR, assuming you are already replicating your data to another location successfully, is the recovery process. Having completely different cloud architectures, VM formats, networking, security, etc. on the other side makes the probability of a smooth, quick or effective recovery very low, if not impossible. Right concept, wrong cloud.

Gartner virtualization analyst Chris Wolf is cautioning his clients that converting a VM into a cloud image is the easy part; the hard part is integrating it with your existing infrastructure. He suggests that AWS follow up VM Import with a broader set of interoperability features to make it truly helpful to VMware customers that have operational management requirements in which cross-platform support is necessary. According to Wolf:

Amazon can show how serious it is about hybrid clouds by outlining ways to support management interoperability. Interoperability is a benefit most often cited by Amazon’s competitors that offer VMware vCloud. It’s also what the OpenStack project is trying to drive.

Certainly, furthering interoperability between its cloud and on-premise resources would be a well-received move by AWS, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. If anything, cloud service providers seem intent on pushing their approaches as paths toward the future, on which there’s no need to look back. BlueLock’s O’Day compared AWS VM Import to the “old email wars,” when everybody had a tool for migrating from one client to another. Of course, the email war isn’t over, only the battleground has changed. In its latest move against Microsoft (s msft), Google (s goog) released Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange – a tool for switching from Exchange, not interoperating with it.

Maybe AWS is making the same statement with VM Import: Cloud computing is better and cheaper than computing on physical servers, and we’re the best cloud around. Why would you ever want to go back to VMware?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Image courtesy of Flickr user Aidan Wojtas.