A great result of the expansion of cloud computing services has been the democratization of IT services. Companies that could only afford basic IT can now go in for full-fledged ERP solutions. However, while the cost barrier has been broken, the knowledge and skill barriers still remain. Not every small and medium business can afford to start out with staff that can guide the company to proper utilization of cloud based services. Many CEOs, too busy with the day to day running of their companies may not even have the time to study the subject.
New capabilities in Cloud Computing have gone way beyond simple storage of data. With full fledged applications being run over the cloud, there are complex issues of integration, security and relationship management. If the busy CEO does not have the time to manage these issues, he would perhaps give up for the moment and decide to look at the issue when he can afford to hire an IT staff. This is a pity. IT and the proper use of cloud computing can add wings to his business but he has no option but to put it on hold because he can’t afford the staff or invest his own time.
That is where cloud brokerage comes in. Brokerages serve as intermediaries between the cloud service provider and the end user. They help the end user overcome the complexity and get the service he needs.
The cloud broker need not be a person. It could be software or a suite of technologies that will aggregate the services that a user needs (these could even be available with different vendors) and package them in way that the end user gets a complete package that fits his business needs closely. If the company were to achieve the same result through its own manpower, it would have to fritter away precious resources in hiring IT skills. It is far more cost effective to use the services of a broker if your cloud computing needs are well defined and do not need extensive customization.
There are three parts of the service that a broker provides:
- First, he would understand customer needs and research the marketplace to offer a customized solution. The broker would ensure regulatory compliance, manage security and disaster recovery etc and deliver a single service to the user that encompasses all of these.
- The cloud services broker would offer a single Service Level Agreement (SLA) to the customer. This would include every activity that is needed by the customer. At the backend, the broker could have separate SLAs with his subcontractors.
- Service continuity would be the brokers’ responsibility.
Cloud brokerage becomes even more critical if you are in an industry where there are several regulatory requirements for the business to run. Using specialist brokers who understand your industry and its regulatory requirements is an industry wide best practice and it ensures that your business will stay compliant.
There are three categories of cloud brokers available today. These are Intermediation Brokers, Aggregators and Cloud Arbitrage Services. The services they provide are described below -
- Intermediation Brokers – Such a broker starts with a basic existing service that the cloud provider is already making available. He then adds additional essential services that make the original service more robust and reliable. This creates a more stable and complete product. The additional services could be identity management, access control, security overlays etc. Using such a Broker is a simple and cost effective method of building robust capabilities.
- Aggregation Services – The aggregator is a cloud services broker who puts together a set of services from different vendors and builds them into a complete product. The aggregator provides the glue that assembles the service. He will assure your company a specified level of performance and will put the measurement systems in place to ensure it as well. You pay the aggregator a single amount and he handles the accounts with the vendors he uses.
- Cloud Services Arbitrage – It is a business model where a broker purchases a large quantity of a resource at wholesale rates. They then parcel it out into smaller chunks and make it available to end users at a competitive rate.
If you are a company that is still in a rapid growth phase, using cloud brokerage would permit you to get the best of the breed cloud solutions without needing to hire a full time IT staff. Your IT solutions can grow with your company without ever becoming a non-productive drain.
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About the Guest Author:
Sanjay Srivastava has been active in computing infrastructure and has participated in major projects on cloud computing, networking, VoIP and in creation of applications running over distributed databases. Due to a military background, his focus has always been on stability and availability of infrastructure. Sanjay was the Director of Information Technology in a major enterprise and managed the transition from legacy software to fully networked operations using private cloud infrastructure. He now writes extensively on cloud computing and networking and is about to move to his farm in Central India where he plans to use cloud computing and modern technology to improve the lives of rural folk in India.