If you want to be the public cloud of choice, as Amazon Web Services most certainly does, then you need to have a rich set of tools that allows companies to take virtual server instances running inside their data centers and suck them onto the EC2 cloud and link them into S3 or EBS storage.
But you also need to be able to let companies pull virtual machine images off the EC2 cloud and let them run locally inside the corporate firewall. Not that companies will necessarily do this, but they need to know that they can do this.
Amazon has offered a the AWS VM Import service as part of EC2 for quite some time now, and for free, and has now rounded it out with a VM Export service. So the cloud is a two-way street again.
The import/export functions are part of the EC2 API Tools. The import tool allows virtual machines stored in VMware's VMDK format for its ESXi hypervisor, the VHD format used by Microsoft with its Hyper-V and Citrix Systems with its XenServer hypervisors, or RAW file format used by Red Hat's KVM hypervisor to be pulled into the EC2 cloud and converted to its native Amazon Machine Image (AMI) format.
The new export function can only expel VMs from the Amazon cloud in VMDK or VHD formats aimed at their respective ESXi and Hyper-V or XenServer formats. And according to a post by Jeff Barr, evangelist at the AWS unit, that export only works for Windows Server 2003 R2 and Windows Server 2008 EC2 instances at the moment. Amazon is looking for input on the matrix of VM formats and operating systems it should support with the export service. So give Barr an earful, especially about not support Linux from the get-go.
One last thing: While the import and export function is free, the storage that you use on S3 to hold the exported VM image is not. So you will need to pay for S3 storage to do your exporting. ®