Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Craig Lowell, Jonathan Fries, Jnan Dash, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, API Journal, Agile Computing, Apache, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloudwashing the Cloud Brokerage

Cloud Brokerages are a hot topic - for better or worse.

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:

  1. Registration – The CSP must register with the Brokerage in order to begin the enrollment process.

  2. Certification/Assessment – The CSB will assess the candidate CSPs and certify the ones that qualify to join the Brokerage.

  3. Enrollment – The CSP follows the Brokerage’s process for making its services available via the Brokerage.

  4. 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.

  5. Provisioning – The Brokerage may assist the CSP in provisioning Cloud resources for the customer.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Integration – In some cases the Brokerage may act as an integration hub between CSPs and customers.

  9. Support – The CSP must support the customer, and the CSB may act as an intermediary for such support.

  10. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Assessment – The CSB may assess the customer’s business or technical environment in order to gauge suitability for particular services available through the Brokerage.

  4. Selection – The customer selects services through the Brokerage.

  5. 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.

  6. Acceptance – The customer is able to accept the business terms it selects via the Brokerage.

  7. 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.

  8. Management – Management appears on both the CSP and customer lifecycles because it always involves managing the relationships between the two (both business and technical).

  9. 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.

  10. Integration – When the Brokerage acts as an integration hub.

  11. 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).

  12. 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 Administration (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

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

@ThingsExpo Stories
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...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Unsecured IoT devices were used to launch crippling DDOS attacks in October 2016, targeting services such as Twitter, Spotify, and GitHub. Subsequent testimony to Congress about potential attacks on office buildings, schools, and hospitals raised the possibility for the IoT to harm and even kill people. What should be done? Does the government need to intervene? This panel at @ThingExpo New York brings together leading IoT and security experts to discuss this very serious topic.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
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...
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 ...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Internet of @ThingsExpo has announced today that Chris Matthieu has been named tech chair of Internet of @ThingsExpo 2017 New York The 7th Internet of @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Chris Matthieu is the co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, a revolutionary real-time IoT platform recently acquired by Citrix. Octoblu connects things, systems, people and clouds to a global mesh network allowing users to automate and control design flo...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
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.
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
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...
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 ...
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 ...
"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.