How Enterprises Benefit from Cloud Service Brokers

By CIOReview | Wednesday, September 7, 2016
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A few years ago, the managing vice president and chief of research at Gartner, Daryl Plummer, through a column on Forbes advised firms, “It’s important to recognize that Cloud Service Broker (CSB) must be a part of your company’s cloud equation for maximum results. Otherwise, the benefits you realize from moving services outside the organization may very well be hampered by the mess created inside.” Today, the competitive cloud market forecasts a significant majority of enterprises relying on CBSs. According to Gartner, cloud service brokerage market will be worth 160 billion dollars by 2018.

Like brokerage firms in general, CSBs acts as a mediator between clients and vendors, undertaking negotiations on their behalf. For a vendor, brokers could serve as a valuable asset to maintain a responsive relationship with the clients and implement solutions that may not be necessarily part of the vendor’s core business such as designing customized APIs or interface and security enhancements. From a client’s perspective, cloud brokers do the heavy lifting to not only aggregate services from varied vendors (thereby minimizing vendor lock in) but also integrating them in tune to the client’s requirement. The brokerage business model also increases chances of availing services at reduced price.

As a firm looking to implement a robust cloud infrastructure, it is advised to evaluate CSBs in terms of their ability to integrate services through various cloud offerings. For instance, CSB’s interface/API development should not be the reason to delay the collaborative venture of clients and cloud vendor of their choice. Customization is one among the unique selling points of CSBs, it is therefore important to make sure that service brokers understands project needs all the way from its vision to implementation. Ensuring CSBs have well defined project aggregation strategies such as continued testing, life cycle management, analytics and support is imperative especially while moving mission critical applications to the cloud. Transparency is another aspect cloud brokers being a third party should address. CloudMatrix for example has the ability to estimate costs for an application before building it. There are also questionnaires to identify whether an app would be cloud friendly.

Successful service aggregation is an end result of seamless application compatibility across various dimensions and entities in the cloud. Approach towards implementing virtualization on cloud platforms consists of multiple OS mountable Virtual Machine (VM) atop Hypervisor method or a single OS based containerization approach. Owing to its resource saving capabilities, the latter is gaining popularity among firms. Containerization also proves beneficial for cloud brokers for its compatibility features, although the technical feasibility entirely lies at the hands of the broker. In principle, the flexibility of containers allows them to be allocated to any cloud service whilst being able to retain their custom capabilities. This can also serve as a strategy to avoid vendor locking whilst retaining multiple option on the table.

On the other side of the coin, there is little interoperability standards in the cloud brokerage realm which leads to a challenging situation for consumers. This in turn renders its future roadmap hazy with analysts questioning the need of CSBs in the first place. Reputed cloud technology author Bernad Golden, through a post in CIO.com postulates that, “vendors will come to realize that cloud brokerage is more like consulting and less like standardized offerings, which means it is complex and requires highly skilled talent.” He adds, “Cloud brokers will come to recognize it’s a difficult offering to bring off successfully – and one that does not afford large overhead and wasteful spending.”

Marketing mottos of several CSBs revolve around urging firms to focus on core business by entrusting upon them, the rather ‘heavy’ load of the cloud for a ‘light’ business experience. CSBs are often considered a boon for SMBs with limited IT infrastructure or technical knowledge to tap into the cloud; CSBs serve as an agile solution aggregator for larger firms facing challenges such as flexibility and interoperability. As cloud computing continue to reinvent itself, innovations in the realm manifest as varied product offerings that rains down upon the enterprise landscape. In such a cloudburst, one could use the assistance of an agent who goes the extra mile to clear the sky.