Welcome!

Cognitive Computing Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Gregor Petri

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Cognitive Computing , 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
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
Providing secure, mobile access to sensitive data sets is a critical element in realizing the full potential of cloud computing. However, large data caches remain inaccessible to edge devices for reasons of security, size, format or limited viewing capabilities. Medical imaging, computer aided design and seismic interpretation are just a few examples of industries facing this challenge. Rather than fighting for incremental gains by pulling these datasets to edge devices, we need to embrace the i...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
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...
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a leading digital experience intelligence company, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint Systems is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into your customer-critical services to help you consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed for digital business, C...
@ThingsExpo has been named the ‘Top WebRTC Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @ThingsExpo ranked as the number one ‘WebRTC Influencer' followed by @DevOpsSummit at 55th.
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
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 ...
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.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
"What is the next step in the evolution of IoT systems? The answer is data, information, which is a radical shift from assets, from things to input for decision making," stated Michael Minkevich, VP of Technology Services at Luxoft, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions with...
WebRTC sits at the intersection between VoIP and the Web. As such, it poses some interesting challenges for those developing services on top of it, but also for those who need to test and monitor these services. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC, reviewed the various challenges posed by WebRTC when it comes to testing and monitoring and on ways to overcome them.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, discussed the best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
Every successful software product evolves from an idea to an enterprise system. Notably, the same way is passed by the product owner's company. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev, will provide a generalized overview of the evolution of a software product, the product owner, the needs that arise at various stages of this process, and the value brought by a software development partner to the product owner as a response to these needs.
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...