Reigning in the Cloud
By Vishy Narayan
"Over recent years, cloud computing has taken the IT industry by storm, with businesses swept along by the promise of a flexible, scalable, secure storage environment. However, as the cloud frenzy settles, IT teams are being brought back down to earth with the realisation that a speedy implementation isn't enough. What they really need for the long-term success of their cloud projects is to establish the same governance and management processes that currently apply to their traditional IT systems. And, this is where the industry has come against a big stumbling block, as currently businesses simply don't have the tools or systems in place to facilitate this.
As a result, there is a real danger that the investment that has already gone into these cloud projects will go to waste, or even worse, that businesses could be putting themselves at risk, for example if an incomplete view of an enterprise's cloud network means they fail to comply with a key regulation. While every business wants to choose and maintain the best cloud infrastructure possible, and for the lowest cost possible, the truth is that they simply lack the time and resource to do this without help.
This above need has given rise to the introduction of a 'cloud broker', which for the first time offers businesses access to a single catalogue of leading cloud vendors, detailing what their offerings are, and providing the best match for their IT infrastructure. David Mitchell Smith, Gartner Fellow and VP Research, puts it rightly when he says "those efforts and dollars can be better spent solving business problems than solving technology problems which someone else has already solved for you".
Added to this is the responsibility placed on organisations to manage the needs of their employees across multiple departments, and sometimes even in multiple countries. Keeping track of this and the most suited cloud products available, can be difficult to say the least. Cloud brokers will change the way cloud is purchased and used in the long term. Rather than being seen as a series of cloud clusters, the dashboard approach of a cloud broker creates a unified view of an enterprise's cloud environment in one central location, enabling IT departments to carry out real time cost structure analysis across multiple service providers for a particular service. Thus, in just a few clicks, an enterprise user can determine the best pricing at a point in time [offered over a period] for any service, whether it's renting from Linux-based virtual instances, data analytics service or persistent storage on a public cloud. When access and usage of these services is tightly integrated to the Unified Service Catalog, an IT team is given a view into various offerings from multiple best-of-breed providers, which is invaluable in helping a business to make the most of their cloud.
In addition, cloud brokers help businesses ensure they're getting their money's worth through the entire lifecycle. Tools, such as TCO analysis and infrastructure utilisation, have never been more important for IT teams who are continuously expected to demonstrate the real value of their implementations to the wider business.
Thus a cloud broker is increasingly seen to be a trusted intermediary entity. According to Gartner, by 2015 most enterprise customers will rely on such intermediary brokers to provide a diverse range of services. Service providers today look to such cloud brokers or integrators to market and enhance their service offerings and help fill in areas where they lack service coverage. Such cloud service integrators will aggregate and integrate a set of customized services for their clients. More importantly, an integrator who brings in additional capabilities around cloud security, geo-specific compliance and regulations can add immense value to enterprise clients."