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Amazon, Microsoft Partner Up for Cloud Management

Amazon Web Services' recent announcement of a management pack that lets Microsoft shops monitor their Amazon cloud resources from the System Center Operations Manager console is one of the clearest indications yet that vendors are recognizing the importance of being able to manage an array of cloud instances using a single management tool.

Microsoft's Operations Manager claims to support monitoring of multiple cloud environments, but it can only support those for which the cloud vendor provides a management pack. A Microsoft spokesman said via email that a management pack for the Windows Azure cloud platform is provided to Operations Manager customers, and that Amazon is the first third-party vendor to offer one.

Additionally, Microsoft has an API that service providers can use to expose their infrastructure in order to provide self-service application management for their customers.

While Amazon has not tapped that API, its new management pack does more than simply provide a consolidated view of a company's AWS cloud resources from within Operations Manager. It also integrates with Amazon's CloudWatch monitoring service, exposing metrics and alerts defined there in the Operations Manager console.

Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, said in a phone interview that the management pack is evidence of Amazon's recognition that "managing across clouds is the way it's going to go in the future."

Gardner said he finds it humorous that Amazon is doing what Microsoft should automatically be doing for its customers. "What Amazon is doing is nudging Microsoft along," he said.

Additionally, he said, Amazon is helping its own customers avoid getting locked in by vendors whose management tools favor their own cloud offerings.

"It's more about choice than anything," Gardner said. "They want to be able to manage their activities in the cloud using management software they're accustomed to."

Microsoft's reaction indicates that the software maker is happy to have Amazon and other service providers link up through System Center.

"We are excited that more customers will be able to experience the benefits of System Center's breadth of management capabilities," the company spokesman said via email.

The AWS management pack is compatible with System Center 2012 Operations Manager and System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2. It enables users to monitor several Amazon cloud services, including its Elastic Compute Cloud, Elastic Block Store, Elastic Load Balancing, CloudFormation stacks and AWS Elastic Beanstalk applications. Applications running in an EC2 instance can also be monitored.

In addition, companies can use the management pack to monitor AWS resources across regions and availability zones, from multiple AWS accounts, and in Amazon's public or virtual private clouds.