|By Jason Bloomberg||
|November 15, 2012 08:00 AM EST||
Since ZapThink wrote our ZapFlash on Cloud Brokerages in April 2011, the Cloud Brokerage marketplace has exploded. Or at the very least, the noise level involving such Brokerages has reached a fever pitch, which the vendors in the space want you to think is the sound of an exploding market anyway. Regardless of your level of cynicism, however, there’s no question that Cloud Brokerages are a hot topic. But as with so many new markets, confusion reigns—in large part because such Brokerages come in so many different flavors. That being said, this market also suffers from rampant Cloudwashing, which refers to vendors (and service providers) who stick the “Cloud” label on existing offerings to take advantage of the Cloud hype. Let’s see if we can separate the steak from the sizzle and delineate how Cloud Brokerages are actually supposed to work.
Gartner: Cloudwashing Facilitator
For better or worse, many people turn to Gartner when they have questions about nascent IT markets. Gartner, however, is a vendor-driven market research firm, rather than a purveyor of vendor-independent best practices. Their research on Cloud Brokerages is a case in point. Gartner defines a Cloud Service Brokerage (CSB) as being composed of three core roles: aggregation, integration, and customization. They point out that the role of Aggregation Broker aligns with the traditional distributor role; the Integration Broker corresponds to the system integrator (SI); and the Customization Broker similarly aligns with the independent software vendor (ISV).
What’s wrong with this picture is that distributors, SIs, and in particular ISVs pay most of Gartner’s bills. So when they conduct their research, they talk to their customers and find out what kinds of CSBs they’re offering. And what do those customers say? I’m a distributor, but now I’m a Cloud Aggregation Broker! I’m an SI, but now I’m a Cloud Integration Broker! And most tellingly: I’m a software vendor, but now I’m a Cloud Customization Broker! It doesn’t really matter if any of these players have something that actually works, or even if it does, it may have little or nothing to do with the Cloud, and there’s no guarantee that any enterprise buyer will actually want what they’re peddling. But hey, it’s an emerging market, so what do you expect?
Contrast Gartner’s list of CSB roles with those from the US Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). According to NIST’s Cloud Conceptual Reference Diagram, CSBs have three core capabilities: aggregation, arbitrage, and intermediation. Yes, NIST and Gartner both agree on the importance of aggregation, but that’s where the meeting of minds diverges. NIST calls for arbitrage (support for dynamic pricing in a Cloud services marketplace), but arbitrage isn’t on Gartner’s list. Why not? Perhaps because Gartner didn’t have any Cloud arbitrage vendors to interview when they did their research? Your guess is as good as ours.
As for intermediation, NIST has something quite different in mind from Cloud integration. When a Brokerage intermediates between Cloud customers and Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), the Brokerage provides a range of business-related capabilities, including assurance, consolidated invoicing, and SLA management, independent of whether the Brokerage is also providing integration capabilities between Cloud customers and CSPs. True, CSBs may end up offering integration as well, but more likely as an advanced capability that will become a reality down the road a few years. So why has Gartner included it and not intermediation? Because of the SIs, as well as the B2B integration vendors who have all Cloudwashed their offerings into Cloud Integration Brokerages.
The Two Cloud Brokerage Lifecycles
Instead of taking a vendor-centric perspective on CSBs, let’s think about how people might actually use them. There are two basic types of users for a CSB: the CSP who wishes to make its offering available in the Brokerage, and the Cloud customer who is looking for services from a CSP and is calling upon the CSB to help in some fashion. We expect such customers to be large enterprises who have several departments or divisions who wish to access Cloud services. For such organizations, the Brokerage serves to present a single face to the CSPs while supporting each department’s individual requirements for Cloud services.
To understand the role of the CSB, let’s start with the lifecycle from the CSP’s perspective:
Registration – The CSP must register with the Brokerage in order to begin the enrollment process.
Certification/Assessment – The CSB will assess the candidate CSPs and certify the ones that qualify to join the Brokerage.
Enrollment – The CSP follows the Brokerage’s process for making its services available via the Brokerage.
Negotiation – Once a customer selects the CSP through the Brokerage, the parties must negotiate a business arrangement. The Brokerage may act as an intermediary or simply hand off the negotiation to the two parties.
Provisioning – The Brokerage may assist the CSP in provisioning Cloud resources for the customer.
Management – Management comes in two flavors: business management, where the Brokerage handles invoicing, payments, and other business interactions on behalf of the parties; and technical management, where the Brokerage assists in SLA monitoring and other technical management tasks.
Assurance – The Brokerage may provide auditing and other assurance activities on behalf of customers to insure CSPs are in compliance with required regulations and other policies.
Integration – In some cases the Brokerage may act as an integration hub between CSPs and customers.
Support – The CSP must support the customer, and the CSB may act as an intermediary for such support.
Deprovisioning – If the customer wishes to discontinue a relationship, the Brokerage may assist with deprovisioning. This step may include delivering data to the customer, confirming customer data no longer reside in the Cloud environment, and wrapping up the business relationship. If the relationship between CSP and customer went south, the CSB may even be called upon to provide litigation support.
Now, let’s take a look at the CSB lifecycle from the Cloud customer’s perspective:
Research – The CSB must provide information to potential customers so that they can make informed decisions about Cloud options available to them through the Brokerage.
Qualification – The customer enters its criteria for Cloud services into the Brokerage, and the Brokerage should only show CSPs and individual Cloud services that meet the customer’s requirements.
Assessment – The CSB may assess the customer’s business or technical environment in order to gauge suitability for particular services available through the Brokerage.
Selection – The customer selects services through the Brokerage.
Negotiation – The Brokerage supports the ability for customers and CSPs to negotiate business terms, either by facilitating direct communication or via automated intermediation, which would typically include arbitrage capabilities.
Acceptance – The customer is able to accept the business terms it selects via the Brokerage.
Onboarding – The Brokerage supports the customer’s efforts to provision Cloud resources, either by facilitating direct interactions between customer and CSP or via an automated onboarding capability.
Management – Management appears on both the CSP and customer lifecycles because it always involves managing the relationships between the two (both business and technical).
Assurance – Assurance also involves both customer and CSP. The Brokerage may take a limited or active role. The CSB will interface with the organization’s Information Assurance organization, but the CSB’s involvement doesn’t absolve the CSP or the Cloud customer from performing their due diligence in meeting their respective security and compliance objectives.
Integration – When the Brokerage acts as an integration hub.
Failover – Many customers will use the Brokerage to handle switching from one CSP to another. Such failover may occur as the result of a technical problem (e.g., a denial of service attack brings down the primary CSP) or a business problem (the primary CSP no longer offers the best deal, or in the extreme case, the CSP goes out of business).
Offboarding – The Brokerage may also handle wrapping up business loose ends should the customer cancel its relationship with a CSP.
The ZapThink Take
The point to listing so many steps on the two CSB lifecycles isn’t to propose a final definition of such lifecycles, of course – the market is far too young for that. If anything, they are wish lists for what we might want Cloud Brokerages to do for us, based not on Brokerage-related products and services on the market today, but rather on what people expect Cloud Brokerages to do. But as with any technical capability, what you want it to do depends upon the core business problems you’re looking to solve. In the case of Cloud Brokerages, there remains a rather diverse set of potential business drivers that is leading the marketplace to grow in a complex, messy fashion.
Not only will individual organizations’ requirements for Brokerages differ, ZapThink is also seeing divergence of requirements among industries. In particular, the US Federal Government is very interested in Cloud Brokerages, with Requests for Information from the General Services A (GSA) as well as the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). In both cases, one of the Government’s key requirements is to support fair competition among CSPs – contrary to private sector customers, who couldn’t care less about such competition, except insofar as it leads to lower prices in the marketplace.
In some ways, the Government is like any other large enterprise. It has hundreds of agencies, each of which may have dozens of individual programs, all clamoring for Cloud services. They are looking to Brokerages to support the ability for such programs to select the best CSP offering for their needs, while providing the best overall value to the Government as a whole. On the other hand, in its role of promoting the general welfare of the people of the US, it is uniquely qualified to foster competition among CSPs and Cloud vendors, leading to better quality and lower prices for everyone.
Image credit: Karen and Brad Emerson
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
Dec. 10, 2016 04:15 AM EST Reads: 571
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
Dec. 10, 2016 04:15 AM EST Reads: 1,389
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
Dec. 10, 2016 04:00 AM EST Reads: 5,318
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
Dec. 10, 2016 03:15 AM EST Reads: 500
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Dec. 10, 2016 02:15 AM EST Reads: 802
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
Dec. 10, 2016 02:00 AM EST Reads: 643
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, discussed recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model for s...
Dec. 10, 2016 01:30 AM EST Reads: 799
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dec. 10, 2016 01:00 AM EST Reads: 1,277
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 9, 2016 11:30 PM EST Reads: 1,163
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Dec. 9, 2016 10:45 PM EST Reads: 582
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, discussed how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your aud...
Dec. 9, 2016 10:00 PM EST Reads: 350
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 9, 2016 09:30 PM EST Reads: 1,292
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Dec. 9, 2016 08:00 PM EST Reads: 1,049
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effici...
Dec. 9, 2016 06:45 PM EST Reads: 5,152
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
Dec. 9, 2016 06:15 PM EST Reads: 1,773
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Dec. 9, 2016 05:30 PM EST Reads: 2,384
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
Dec. 9, 2016 05:15 PM EST Reads: 1,488
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Dec. 9, 2016 05:15 PM EST Reads: 1,905
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Dec. 9, 2016 04:45 PM EST Reads: 1,330
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
Dec. 9, 2016 04:45 PM EST Reads: 1,878