Hotlink is a vendor of some very clever bits of software that make the management of virtualized environments easier. And recently the company has been busy making deals to build its software into some very useful looking services for low-cost disaster recovery and for hybrid clouds.
The story starts with a solution called NetApp Private Storage for AWS. It's a system for NetApp storage device customers that allows data to be replicated to a select band of service providers who also have NetApp storage systems, as well as a high speed, low latency link right into an Amazon data center — something Amazon calls Direct Connect. With NetApp Private Storage for AWS, customers' workloads can run on virtual machines in AWS, with the data stored on the service provider's NetApp system rather than in Amazon's public cloud.
So what Hotlink has done – and it's quite interesting – is it has slotted its Hybrid Express software product into this service to provide a link between VMware's vCenter and AWS. "Hybrid Express makes the Amazon resources appear in vCenter just as if they were local VMs, so what you get is a hybrid on/off premise cloud," says Hotlink CEO Lynn LeBlanc. "You can use vCenter to manage the Amazon resources — anything you can do with vCenter you can do with Amazon resources — and Hybrid Express handles the bidirectional workflow conversion."
In fact, vCenter can't distinguish between local VMware and external AWS resources at all, and that means that any tools or plugins that a customer may be using through vCenter in their VMware environment will also work on the AWS resources as well.
Aside from Hybrid Express, Hotlink has another software product called DR Express. What this product does is use VMware Changed Block Tracking (CBT) to capture changes to VMs running on-premise, and stores them in Amazon. This provides a low-cost disaster recovery solution, LeBlanc explains. "If you have a failure on-prem, we can collapse the VM deltas and then bring up the workloads in Amazon. They are still managed in vCenter, and what you get is a low-cost integrated data protection environment," she adds.
The changes appear in vCenter like virtual machine snapshots, and by activating a snapshot in vCenter what actually happens is that the changed blocks stored in Amazon are converted by Hotlink's software into running Amazon virtual machines. Neat.
It's intriguing stuff, and LeBlanc says that the company already has customers using the system both for hybrid cloud bursting and for data protection purposes.
Of course, to make use of either solution customers will need to have their own NetApp storage already, and they'll also need to be prepared to have it SnapMirrored to a service provider that offers NetApp Private Storage for AWS.
That's not to say there's anything particularly special about NetApp or AWS, LeBlanc says. "We have optimized this around NetApp, but it could be done with another storage provider. And if we wanted to use another cloud we would need to do some transformation work. It wouldn't be an enormous task — it could certainly be done."
In the meantime, the whole solution is being offered by a number of NetApp VARs so customers don't have to buy and integrate all the pieces. There's also the opportunity for Direct Connect service providers to offer disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) to their customers.
What's most interesting about all this is how HotLink has transformed itself as server virtualization technology has evolved. HotLink started out as a vendor of multi-hypervisor management systems, but now it is providing the vital glue that's needed to build more complex cloud bursting and disaster recovery solutions.
What will really be interesting is seeing how long HotLink continues as an independent company.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.