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Cloud Expo: Article

Envisioning Cloud Brokering for a New Year

As 2013 begins, it's a natural time to explore where cloud brokering is headed

Hopefully you watched Forrester's Stefan Ried present his webinar on cloud brokering and the many opportunities for different kinds of companies to exploit this technology. Part of Stefan's conversation included an explanation of the evolution to a unified cloud broker. If you missed it, you can catch up with it here.

As 2013 begins, it's a natural time to explore where cloud brokering is headed. A cloud broker is the intersection of infrastructure, software and consultancy. Naturally, technology is a key enabler for a service provider adopting the broker role but it also impacts business models and consultancy.

This diagram summarizes concept into the high-level architecture discussed above:

In the blue is a proposed "Unified Cloud Broker Platform." This shows how a cloud broker can take existing applications, SaaS and IaaS, and create customer value and a new cloud portfolio from them. This isn't necessarily a single product but shows the elements needed to offer the component parts that a cloud broker would need in their "stack" to offer compelling cloud offerings to ISVs, SMEs, enterprises and cloud ecosystem partners:

  • A highly scalable, multi-tenant grid - required to allow the dynamic, "bursty" nature of cloud brokering and a solid foundation to cope with demand but also provide an efficient, effective multi-tenant core to the whole broker offering for multiple customers.
  • Integration and connectivity - the broker must be able to connect their on-premise systems, the customers' systems and cloud-based SaaS, IaaS and other cloud services together.
  • Unified provisioning and service aggregation - once connected to, the broker must be able to provision dynamic, customized and sometimes complex "bundles" of applications, processes, infrastructure and cloud offerings. Services must be aggregated together, regardless of source, to create the right offering for the customer.
  • Business process and cloud orchestration - increasingly, cloud services need to be orchestrated together; this might be in the form of a cloud supply chain but also business processes that the broker wants to offer as a value-added service. There is a growing trend for process-centric applications to be offered by a service provider or broker.
  • Value added services - taking the aggregated, orchestrated services and creating differentiated products, applications and service offerings is where the cloud broker can really start to generate value for the customer and create a high margin portfolio of offerings. These offerings are presented through channels and catalogues to the marketplace.
  • Application marketplace - the enterprise "app store" is where the broker can offer a catalogue of cloud services with an economy of scale and a single, convenient billing model. The next step for these marketplaces is to go beyond the reselling of standard, vanilla offerings and offer customized, higher value added products and services.
  • Enterprise mobility - offering enterprise mobility as part of the unified cloud broker platform allows mobile applications and mobility to be offered "as a service" by the broker to the customer. By combining all the capabilities from the broker "stack," the provider can offer rich, powerful mobile enterprise applications.

On the right of the diagram (in yellow) you can see the operations side of what a broker needs to do. This varies from billing and metering of the variety of services offered by the broker through to the day-to-day operations such as customer onboarding, order management and issue resolution. On top of that, business stakeholders and channel managers need visibility and intelligence into the operations, customer management and portfolio offerings.

On the left of the diagram (in green), you can see how an organization can use the unified cloud broker stack to create consultancy and professional services based offerings on top of the broker stack. By extending the capabilities of a unified cloud broker platform with PaaS, a service provider can create and take to market industry solutions such as financial services, energy/utilities, manufacturing/logistics, healthcare, etc. You can see this today from leading telcos, which are offering business and enterprise services. In fact this seems to be a dynamic area of M&A with telco service provider acquiring technology companies to build out their broker stack and create new industry vertical cloud offerings. These vertical solutions are typically then taken to market through consulting and professional services to customize and implement them for a customer's needs. The lengthy implementation cycles are greatly reduced as the capability is delivered from the cloud broker platform and customer specific customizations are composed and personalized thanks to a cloud delivery model and a well put together broker platform offering "mass customization."

While the cloud broker picture is still evolving, it's getting clearer, and it should crystallize throughout 2013.

More Stories By Matt Davies

Matt Davies is senior director of product marketing at Cordys, the enterprise cloud platform. He is involved in all areas of product messaging, technical positioning, communication both internal and external regarding Cordys products, and helping shape where the Cordys strategy goes next. He is on Twitter @mattdavies_uk.