Amazon-VMware Friction Heating Up As Enterprise Cloud Battle Kicks Into Higher Gear

Amazon may be locked in a steel cage match with Microsoft and Google over cloud service pricing, but it's saving some of its energies to put pressure on its biggest enterprise rival: VMware.

Last Friday, Amazon rolled out AWS Management Portal for vCenter, a tool that lets VMware admins manage virtual machines running on Amazon EC2 using the same software and interface they use to manage VMs on private clouds.

In a blog post, Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for Amazon Web Services, said the portal helps VMware admins "exercise full control over hybrid IT environments." More importantly, Barr said it lets admins move VMware private cloud virtual machines to the EC2 public cloud "with a couple of clicks."

[Related: Amazon Testing Private Cloud Waters With Cloud Storage Hardware Appliance ]

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According to partners of both vendors, Amazon's new vCenter portal is the latest example that the public cloud leader is intent on extending its tentacles into an enterprise cloud market that VMware has long dominated.

"VMware is definitely the top enterprise rival for AWS," said Luis Benavides, founder and CEO of Day1 Solutions, an AWS partner in McLean, Va. "For VMware customers that don't want to be locked into vCloud Hybrid Service, [the new portal] could convince them to try AWS."

While Amazon already has a tool called VM Import for moving VMs into EC2, it doesn't appears to have gained many users. One AWS partner described VM Import to CRN as "a very 1.0 tool that hasn't evolved." Meanwhile, startups such as HotLink have emerged with tools that provide this functionality.

VMware has been pitching vCloud Hybrid Service as a "safe landing place" for private cloud workloads, and a public cloud mirror of its on-premise private clouds. If Amazon succeeds in getting VMware customers to use its public cloud instead, that could negate this as a selling point, partners said.

However, one of the knocks on Amazon is that it's not easy to move workloads off EC2 and back into a customer's data center, or to another cloud provider. On Tuesday, Chris Wolf, CTO of VMware's Americas business, pointed this out in a blog post response to Amazon's vCenter portal.

NEXT: VMware CTO Says Amazon Adds Lots Of Complexity

Wolf warned that organizations that try to move workloads from Amazon could run into difficulties such as proprietary APIs and management dependencies, and they'll also have to replace third-party management and operational software.

With VMware, they don't have to worry about this, Wolf said.

"Whether you are strategically aligned to VMware or not, you should demand consistent management, third-party integration, and a common API that spans all hybrid cloud deployment scenarios," Wolf said in the blog post. "Don’t be fooled by basic management that is tactically useful today but can lead to increased lock-in down the road."

VMware's vCloud Automation Center supports multiple cloud providers, Wolf said in the blog post, suggesting that VMware's approach is more truly "hybrid" than what Amazon is pitching with its AWS Management Portal for vCenter.

Migrating workloads is more complex than just pushing VMs through a migration wizard. There are VPNs, DNS and other external elements to consider, said Blaine Kahle, director of engineering at Five Nines Technology Group, a Lincoln, Neb.-based VMware partner, in an interview.

For these reasons, Kahle doesn't think the new Amazon portal is going to get VMware customers to transition to EC2.

Amazon also isn't doing itself any favors by developing its vCenter portal for the legacy C# version of the vSphere client instead of the Web version, according to Kahle. "Anyone whose environments use the latest VMware technologies probably can't use this tool," he told CRN.

The AWS vCenter portal could explain why VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and COO Carl Eschenbach warned partners last year about not letting customers go to AWS. Whether or not Amazon succeeds in wooing VMware customers remains to be seen, but this is one rivalry that's not cooling down anytime soon.