The new Amazon Web Services Management Portal for vCenter was launched last week and generated a bit of buzz on Twitter and elsewhere. VMware reacted quite strongly, and I think that makes sense in a hyper-competitive cloud market, but it was a bit out of proportion to the real threat posed by the AWS tool.

I doubt most savvy cloud buyers (or VMware admins, for that matter) will think this new plug-in for vCenter is a cloud management tool. It’s not. Like other vCenter plug-ins, it makes it easier for an admin using vCenter to get something done without leaving the wildly popular virtualization management portal (like the P2V or V2V tools of yore). In this case, that something includes VMware-to-EC2 conversions and some basic housekeeping tasks: create an AWS virtual private cloud, launch an instance, etc. Image creation, migration, and basic configuration does not a complete cloud management solution make – there’s a lot more to do to create and manage a hybrid cloud implementation and enable workload portability. But this will make it easier to run conversions to AWS and that irks VMware a bit, since it offers its own public cloud option in vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS).

Rather than draw attention to how limited the AWS Management Portal is, VMware should use its existence to drive home three important points about the company’s overall cloud positioning:

1) allowing competitors to add plug-ins to manage competing public cloud instances shows that VMware’s not scared to compete for your cloud VMs;

2) vCenter is obviously very sticky and widely used, and AWS wants to get in front of those eyeballs – VMware still has critical admin mindshare; and

3) VMware’s not just paying lip service to an “open cloud management” strategy.

VMware allows a range of plug-ins for vCenter from companies who make products that compete with the company’s own services and features, both for cloud and traditional virtualization. The company also monitors and manages both its own and competitive clouds via its cloud management stack – vCloud Automation Center and vCloud Operations. So now you can deploy VMs to your private cloud, vCHS, or EC2, and you can monitor, allocate, optimize, reconfigure, and create multiple clouds from those resources, too. It’s a good “open” message. That’s the takeaway here. This isn’t a game changer; it’s validation that when VMware says it’s committed to helping you manage any workload on any cloud, they mean it.

Of course no public cloud provider wants to lose workloads to a competitor, but the only way an “open” management story holds water is if you actually allow it via your own management tools. All the big players in the OpenStack community are falling over each other to claim the most open approach to cloud, too, when most also have a public cloud implementation they’d strongly prefer you to use. You want to know how open someone is? Ask if you can move a workload (and then manage it) to a competitor’s cloud from the vendor’s management stack. VMware’s walking the talk here.

[For a clear discussion of “open” claims in the OpenStack community, check out Lauren Nelson’s excellent Quick Take report on the OpenStack Summit held in May.