Software lock in - HotLink invites new players to VMware's party

Is HotLink helping customers better manage their virtualized infrastructure or helping VMware control larger segments of the customers' data center?

HotLink logoHotLink just announced SuperVISOR for VMware, a tool allowing VMware's vCenter management environment to not only manage VMware's virtual machine environment, but also manage Microsoft's Hyper-V, Citrix's XenServer and even KVM that is part of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux.

On the one hand this makes it possible for an organization's IT department to use just one set of management tools. On the other hand, HotLink can be seen as helping increase VMware's hold on its customer base and, potentially, bring new companies "into the fold."

Here's how HotLink describes their product:

HotLink SuperVISOR™ for VMware is a virtual integration and transformation platform that extends the robust management capabilities of VMware vCenter to all major enterprise hypervisors — including Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (KVM). Unlike overlay solutions that provide basic cross-platform features on top of native management toolsets, HotLink SuperVISOR for VMware abstracts the virtual infrastructure so you can support other hypervisors utilizing the underlying capabilities of VMware vCenter. No additional management dashboard is required!

Snapshot analysis

Software vendor lock-in comes at us from all directions. For those in the know, it is a big thorn in their side. For those unfamiliar with the term, vendor lock-in makes a customer totally dependent upon a vendor's products and services. The goal is making switching to other suppliers' products so costly and difficult that the customer "stays loyal" to the first supplier.

Open standards are an industry-wide approach that is designed to reduce the hold vendor lock-in has on companies and allow interoperability, greater ease of migrating functions from one vendor's products to another's, and make the environment more manageable.

Layers of Lock-in seen today

One interesting form of vendor lock-in is making development environments, programing interfaces, file formats and communications protocols proprietary. Customers find it difficult to impossible to develop their own additions or changes to that vendor's products unless they dance to that vendor's tune. The vendor might offer consulting services avaialble so that they, not the customer, can add needed features or do needed integration with other workloads possible, at some cost to the customer. Another approach is developing management tools that will only work with the vendor's own solutions. If the management tools do wonderful things for an IT organization, maybe that organization won't consider using other vendors' products.

VMware, among others, has been long noted for developing interesting, powerful management tools that work with the company's own virtual machine software and don't do much to help manage other tools that are in the same data center. VMware is not alone in using this approach, however.

HotLink isn't really attempting to help VMware customers escape. No, it is just trying to help them bring more workloads and tools into VMware's "walled garden."

Note: HotLink views their announcement quite differently.  They will provide me with their viewpoint and I will post it when it comes in.