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Amazon EC2, Microsoft Connect Via Cloud Management Plug-In

Hybrids of dedicated private and shared public cloud services seem likely to become the cloud architecture of choice for most enterprises. But hybrid clouds face one glaring problem: management complexity. Mixing cloud stacks typically means using several different administration consoles, programming and automation interfaces, and deployment processes.

The conventional wisdom for fixing this problem is to standardize public and private clouds on the same technology stack. Indeed, this is a major impetus behind OpenStack, and more brand-name vendors are embracing the open source platform. The latest is Big Blue, which recently endorsed OpenStack as the foundation for all of IBM's cloud software and services.

Convergence of private and public cloud technologies is also driving VMware's push into cloud services, while Microsoft continues to woo both enterprise developers and ISVs to its Azure platform. But such homogenizing strategies go against the tide of IT history, where one size never fits all for very long.

Hotlink, a 3-year-old Silicon Valley startup, takes a different approach to hybrid clouds by embracing heterogeneity. From its first product, a VMworld award-winning virtualization management platform, Hotlink has sought to hide cloud infrastructure differences under the veneer of the systems management platforms that IT already uses, including VMware vCenter and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).

This week, the firm updated its Hybrid Express product, the free edition of its hybrid management platform, with a new Amazon EC2 plugin for SCVMM. This release catches up to functionality first introduced for vCenter by allowing SCVMM to manage EC2 resources from within the enterprise console as if they were native vSphere or Hyper-V instances.

Besides providing a single administrative interface for on-premise VMs using vSphere, Hyper-V, XenServer or KVM, and IaaS instances on EC2 and CloudStack, Hybrid Express includes features such as GUI-based workload migration from private to public infrastructure, image snapshots and restores from snapshots stored either locally or remotely, automated conversion of both Windows and Linux workloads to and from EC2, EC2 provisioning using existing vCenter or SCVMM templates, and consistent policies and automation scripts across private and public clouds.

Unlike existing tools such as Amazon's EC2 VM Import Connector, which only go one direction, Hotlink's platform, which hides cloud service differences behind a software abstraction, also immunizes enterprises from lock-in. Moving workloads from vSphere to KVM or EC2 to CloudStack is a button-click away.

But in contrast to cloud management systems like RightScale and ScaleXtreme, Hybrid Express uses software IT pros are already familiar with and have incorporated into their workflows.

Hybrid Express for either Microsoft SCVMM or VMware vCenter is available for download today. The free edition is full-featured and supports 10 Amazon EC2 instances. The standard edition starts at $26,700.