Cloud brokers - a helping hand to cloud deployment?

As more cloud products come out every week, finding the right one can be a job in itself – enter the cloud broker

Obtaining and managing cloud services is becoming more of a full time job for hard-pressed CIO. Cloud adoption has reached a stage where there is a broad mix of cloud and on-premise infrastructure to deal with and manage – all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s not an easy task and this complexity means that understanding the choices and picking the right one is a trial: perhaps it’s time to call in a cloud broker.

Cloud brokerage is still a fairly new type of business. The cloud broker (sometimes called a cloud services broker) can be more like a cloud service clearing house or app store.

The broker consults, mediates and facilitates the selection of cloud computing services on behalf of their client. They can also negotiate terms and conditions, pricing, delivery, deployment and other elements with a cloud vendor on behalf of a client.

That’s the definition, but for some the reality is different. “The role of a Cloud Service Broker (CSB) is in its infancy and how this market develops is still uncertain,” says Nigel Beighton, vice president of Technology at Rackspace. “At the moment, most CSBs are orientated towards operational running of services and not the needs of developers. The functionality they offer must evolve to keep pace with the changing functionality of cloud and the needs of developers.”

Orchestration Saju Sankaran Kutty, associate vice president and head of Cloud Transformed Outsourcing at Infosys reckons that an effective broker helps clients to “orchestrate a ‘best in class’ cloud ecosystem, enable continuous contestability within the ecosystem and finally, to provide a single point of accountability for management and governance of the ecosystem.”

So it is still early days and it would seem that anyone can set up shop calling themselves a cloud broker. This means there are potentially a lot of charlatans; so,how can you tell the good brokers from the bad?

Kalyan Kumar, chief technology architect at HCL Technologies says that a good cloud broker is one that addresses the requirement of cloud brokerage from all aspects including people, process and technology; taking care of both business and operational models.

There are potentially a lot of charlatans; so,how can you tell the good brokers from the bad?

“They should first and foremost add tremendous value to the cloud provisioning process,” says Kumar. “They can do this not only by managing the use, performance and delivery of cloud services, but also by negotiating relationships between cloud providers and customers and acting as a true friend in the entire process.”

Furthermore, they should be able to provide various supporting services such as integration, aggregation and arbitrage, which add value to any cloud implementation.

“Ultimately, a good cloud broker is one which will save their clients a vast amount of time and money by taking on much of the initial legwork and management complexity when it comes to moving services to the cloud,” says Kumar.