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Amazon woos VMware admins (and workloads) with new portal

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Interesting. Late Friday, Amazon(s amzn) Web Services announced a portal that it says will make VMware(s vmw) admins comfortable managing workloads in the Amazon cloud. This is just the latest push by the public cloud vendor to say it can facilitate, even nurture,  hybrid cloud deployment.

The move makes total sense since nearly every enterprise runs VMware virtualization in-house. One of the vendor’s big advantages, and one that it hopes will parlay into adoption of its vCloud Hybrid Services cloud, is an army of VM admins in customer shops who see their expertise as job security. If AWS can woo them with a familiar look-and-feel and a VMware-centric way to view and manage Amazon resources, well, that’s all good for Amazon, no?

And maybe not so good for VMware, said Sebastian Stadil, CEO of Scalr, a cloud management company. This portal “reduces the value of [VMware]  hybrid cloud services to practically nothing. It’s also a trojan horse,” he said via email. That’s because VMware admins can keep using vCenter, which they’ve bought and paid for and which they know well, to provision EC2 instances. But, “it also allows them to migrate workloads off VMware onto EC2 and still  manage them,” he said.

David Mytton, president of Server Density, a website and server management provider, said AWS wants to reduce the friction of deploying into public cloud if the customer already runs VMware.

“VMware said they wouldn’t be competing on price but around their features and management tools. This is AWS saying it will compete on both because you can now launch AWS instances as if they were part of your VMware environment. If that’ snot hybrid, nothing is,” Mytton said.

The AWS Management Portal for vCenter (Amazon appears to be getting its naming conventions from Microsoft, god help us). According to the AWS blog post announcing this tidbit:


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, starting with the integrated sign-on process, which is integrated with your existing Active Directory.

The look-and-feel and the workflow that you use to create new AWS resources will be familiar and you will be launching EC2 instances before too long. You can even import your existing “golden” VMware images to EC2 through the portal (this feature makes use of VM Import).

Cloud watchers really shouldn’t be surprised by this move. Amazon has been wooing enterprise accounts for years now and to do that it has to deal with their legacy workloads — many of which run in VMware and/or Microsoft environments.

Gigaom Research Analyst MSV Janakiram, borrowing a phrase from Microsoft’s heyday, said this portal is a “nice way to embrace and extend VMware enterprise deployments.” He pointed out that Amazon offered an analogous product for Microsoft System Center last year

This is not a one way street however, VMware admins can also orchestrate Amazon EC2 via a  VMware plug in.

So the cloudscape continues go get interesting with enterprise players pushing into the public cloud and Amazon going the other way. As luck would have it our guest on this week’s Structure podcast is VMware SVP Bill Fathers, who discusses the competitive landscape. that interview starts at about minute 8 if you want to cut to the chase. Both Fathers and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels will be at Structure in a few weeks and you can bet this battle of the titans will be one topic on the agenda.

16 Responses to “Amazon woos VMware admins (and workloads) with new portal”

  1. Jason McKenzie

    It’s all fun and games until you need to get your workload OUT of the cloud and back on-premise. What is AWS’ plan for that? None, because they don’t have on-premise software to run in your datacenter. So Sebastian Stadil’s claim that this portal “reduces the value of [VMware] hybrid cloud services to practically nothing” is patently ridiculous.

    Same thing with Mytton’s claim that managing EC2 as if it was VMware makes AWS “hybrid”. Utter nonsense. Hybrid means having choice at any point in time between keeping your workload on-premise or off-premise, and being able to move it between different providers. Until AWS has a plan for this, it’s backdoor dealing to call their cloud hybrid.

    • Why would AWS have a plan for leaving their cloud? There’s no business reason for them to do it but if you’re using EC2 then it’s much easier to leave than if you’re using any of their proprietary services. Of course you can say that about any vendor – it’s the price of using software rather than building your own.

      You can define “hybrid” how you like but I understand it to mean the ability to move workloads from public to private cloud. This plugin from AWS integrates your private VMWare environment to the public AWS environment, so in that sense it is private.

      If you’re worried about lockin and portability then you’re better off not using AWS.

      This entire release is about putting more workloads on AWS and less on VMWare. That’s AWS’s entire business model (replace VMWare for colo, Rackspace, Softlayer, etc – any competitor), which is why Sebastian Stadil is right to describe it as a trojan horse move.

      • Jason McKenzie

        Huh? I’m talking about companies who move their workloads to AWS, and decide to move them off later.

        And yes, of course Amazon wants this to be a Trojan horse – because we all know who succeeded there. My point was that it’s ridiculous to say that this move by Amazon reduces the value of VMware’s Hybrid Cloud Service to practically nothing. As you said yourself, if you are worried about lock-in, you’re better off not using AWS. So that’s the question – how much is lock-in worth, and what is the business value of workload freedom? I would assert it’s a bit more than “practically nothing”.

        • Vendor lock-in certainly exists as a problem and the business value is more than “practically nothing”, but not much more.

          The spectre of lock-in seems to be something used in marketing against AWS (et al) or against using the cloud, but nobody actually cares enough because all the other benefits of using AWS significantly outweigh the downside of being tied to a single vendor.

          Perhaps if AWS stop innovating and raise prices then vendor lock-in will become a real problem, but is that likely? Not if they want to retain their lead with the likes of Google and Microsoft around.

          • Cloud Insider

            Agree. Also note that AWS provides bi-directional flow – on-prem VMs imported to EC2 can be moved back on-prem. If that is a big customer ask I am sure AWS will enable that too for this product. AWS lives off customer requests.

    • sebastianstadil

      Great points, Jason. I agree that repatriating a workload from AWS can be tough. This can be facilitated by using AWS-compatible private cloud software, such as CloudScaling, but it can still be tricky.

      The value I see in VHCS is in the option to move a low-complexity workload to a better home, ie one that provides higher uptime at lower cost (high-complexity workloads tend to stay where they are as you rarely get any ROI from moving them). Compatibility with VMware means you have a reduced need for changes in order to move a given workload, and little to no extra training required.

      The integration announced here provides this same option at lower cost and lower effort from Amazon, with the added benefit that the VMware admin doesn’t have to be trained to use a new tool like vCAC, and can still use vCenter to manage or move a workload to AWS.

  2. Sharon Wagner

    Smart move by AWS, Sebastian Stadil @ Scalr is spot on. AWS will use the integration to shift workload from VMWare to AWS. This feature follow-up the recent AWS TCO calculator to compare private clouds and AWS. Don’t be surprised if both features will be integrated soon.

  3. Ken Wagner

    999…..Need a couple more before my workload gets in there… If I go down.. Does Jeff care or does he want to make another 4 cents on a 5k TV. AWS is the Kmart of clouds..

  4. Cloud Insider

    Gutsy and out of the box thinking by AWS. It is actually good for existing VMware customers as they get to continue to use the leading virt platform for on-prem VMs, and the leading public cloud for off-prem VMs, while continuing to remain in vCenter. And while Bill Fathers might be pissed, Raghu Raghuram (who I think runs their core on-prem business) might actually like this. It delays the migrations off of vCenter (to 100% AWS) that we are seeing in some enterprises.

    • Interesting… You’ve seen people migrate 100% to AWS with traditional enterprise workloads that don’t take take advantage the elastic price model of AWS? My experience has been this a much more expensive computing model vs. any type of private hosting.

      • Cloud Insider

        Keith – that question can be best answered by customers that moved workloads to AWS and have seen the savings (such as Dow Jones, Suncorp, Smugmug etc). There is also a TCO calculator AWS offers now that you can use. When you add all the costs together (including facilities and headcount), AWS comes out ahead. But the best validation comes from customers that have actually moved and seen savings.

        • Jason McKenzie

          What kind of “savings” will Smugmug et al. see when they decide they want those workloads to live somewhere other than AWS? How much “savings” did they see when they had to pay developers to port their apps to work in AWS? It’s easy to see “savings” when you only look at the parts of the picture you want to.