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Startup takes aim at multi-hypervisor management

An updated version of software from startup HotLink aims to ease the management of multi-hypervisor environments, as well as provision off-premises resources, like VMs from Amazon's cloud, all from VMware's vCenter management console.

The software aims to help organizations tasked with having to separately manage resources running on different hypervisors. The HotLink SuperVisor controls workloads running on hypervisors such as VMware's ESX, Red Hat's Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM), Citrix's XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V -- all centrally managed using VMware vCenter.

While there are a variety of cloud automation and hypervisor management tools, some experts say the level of integration HotLink has with VMware, including the ability to not just deploy resources, but also migrate workloads between various hypervisors, sets this startup apart from other management tools.

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Today's announcement of Version 2 of HotLink's SuperVisor has deeper integration with VMware products, such as vCloud Director. HotLink has also updated software for managing public cloud resources from the central management hub. HotLink's Hybrid Express allows vCenter to manage Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) resources from Amazon Web Services, for example.

"This is enabling vCenter to be a single hub of administration, management and integration for disparate resource types on and off premises," says CEO and co-founder of the company Lynn LeBlanc. "That whole ecosystem of VMware products can integrate in a single place, and it now has the benefit of these other platforms and hybrid resources natively integrated."

Multi-hypervisor environments are inevitable within an organization, but they're a pain to manage, says Aneel Lakhani, a Gartner virtualization analyst. "Although we don't advise customers to run multiple hypervisors, fact of the matter is that they are," Lakhani says. Multi-hypervisor environments evolve from various business units having their own hypervisors or certain applications and workloads using separate hypervisors. Some Microsoft apps may be virtualized on Hyper-V while other apps are virtualized using VMware. This usually requires separate consoles, and each hypervisor has its own API. All this means increased costs and complexity, Lakhani says.

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HotLink goes beyond just being able to deploy resources across multiple hypervisors, which a variety of vendors do, says Bernd Harzog, analyst at the Virtualization Practice. HotLink allows for migration of VM images across disparate hypervisors, which Harzog says is a differentiator. Competitors in this area, including ServiceMesh, Virtustream, Embodics, ManageIQ and even DynamicOps, which VMware bought last year, provide this base-level of multi-hypervisor support.

HotLink works by having an agent sit within a cluster of whatever hypervisors are being managed, and converts them into vCenter-like images so they can be managed centrally. This allows vCenter to control not just VMware resources, but also Hyper-V, KVM or XenServer apps. HotLink Hybrid Express extends the capability to manage public cloud resources.

Harzog says this has wide applicability in the enterprise. Companies today tier their hypervisors; they may reserve expensive VMware licenses for high-performance and mission-critical virtualized applications, for example. Less expensive Hyper-V or free, open source KVM hypervisors are used for ancillary functions or by individual business units within the enterprise.

Hotlink has various pricing options, including a free version of the Hotlink Supervisor, which supports smaller environments of 15 virtual machines or less across VMware and one other hypervisor. A standard version starts at $26,700.

Co-founders LeBlanc and Richard Offer, who is chief scientist at HotLink, had a previous startup named FastScale Technology that VMware bought. They founded HotLink in early 2010 and have since received $10 million in venture backing; the initial version of the SuperVisor launched in 2011.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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More about: Amazon, Citrix, Gartner, Google, KVM, Microsoft, Rackspace, Red Hat, Technology, VMware
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