Understanding the cloud service broker model
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Although many enterprise customers are still experimenting with what is often a largely ad hoc cloud strategy, research shows that organizations are starting to take a more holistic approach to cloud services adoption.
Only 5% of organizations currently consume more than 20% of their IT needs through the cloud, but that constituency is expected to climb to 28% in less than two years, according to a recent Current Analysis survey on enterprise cloud adoption.
While many providers are already delivering production-grade cloud services, enterprises are pressing their telecom providers, hosting providers and systems integrators to deliver an even wider range of IT services through the cloud. Moreover, customers are also looking to cloud providers to offer the consulting and professional services and support needed to make the transition successful. In response, some telcos are taking on the cloud broker role to help customers choose the right cloud services, a move that also enables those carriers to increase their own service offerings through new partnerships.
Buyers looking for clear migration path to cloud adoption
Managing all of this growth is no easy task for providers. And for all the cloud's flexibility, the migration path to an on-demand model can be complex and tough to navigate for customers. While there is a degree of commoditization in some areas of the cloud, most cloud services are still differentiated enough to require enterprise buyers to weigh all the capabilities before signing with a new provider.
Beyond selecting cloud providers, many customers are looking to trusted third parties for help managing cloud provider relationships and services. Beyond the obvious technical and strategic challenges associated with migrating application workloads to the cloud, enterprises also need effective post-deployment support to make sure they're getting the maximum value from their investments.
For some, this means finding an independent cloud broker that can guide them through the technical and business aspects of a cloud deployment, including contracting, procuring new solutions, service provisioning and ongoing support. Cloud brokers also give customers the "single throat to choke," which provides them with a level of confidence and support.
Yet, as appealing as it is to have an informed representative guiding the cloud adoption process, ideally a broker should be able to provide technical support down to the level of automation and cloud service orchestration that might elude brokerages more focused on specifics, such as application customization or the business aspects of deployment.
Telecom providers poised to take on cloud aggregator role
Where there is even the whiff of demand, providers are all too ready to step in to fill the void and gain an important influence over key accounts. A diverse set of companies, including niche specialists, hosting providers and communication service providers are beginning to retool their services and position themselves as critical intermediaries between the client and the cloud.
While each type of provider brings its particular strengths and expertise to an engagement, some are better positioned than others to succeed in a multilayered, cloud aggregator role that incorporates service aggregation, provisioning, orchestration and ongoing support.
Telecom providers are particularly well-suited to play the aggregator, bringing both the delivery infrastructure and the expansive partner ecosystem to provide customers with a diverse set of options. Stepping into the cloud broker role also gives telecom providers with limited cloud service portfolios an opportunity to still profit from the cloud.
Ideally, cloud brokers should be able to consult with customers about the infrastructure and tools to streamline the provisioning and management processes, as well as support effective deployments. This can extend to offering customers a marketplace they can use to choose new services, which may be delivered under the broker's brand or come from a third-party partner. Cloud brokers also provide customers with a consolidated management portal, where enterprises can provision new services or dial them down when they are no longer needed.
Telecom providers typically have the technical infrastructure to support variable capacity requirements and to provision new services quickly. Network service providers also usually have extensive alliances, many of which extend into the Software as a Service market. Partners are key to providing the broad range of cloud services and associated tools that enterprises want, and to layering in the security and the automation capabilities to streamline the cloud process for the buyer.
The risk of creating a broad marketplace is that enterprise buyers may become overwhelmed. A streamlined portal with a fairly intuitive interface portal can play a key role in streamlining the experience and reducing complexity.
Network operators have all the native capabilities necessary not only to act as a service aggregation point, but also to supply their customers with the automation, orchestration and management capabilities to support a highly elastic delivery model. The orchestration piece can potentially involve moving application workloads between and among clouds, including environments owned by third-party providers.
Taking on the cloud broker mantle gives telecom providers the opportunity to up their game in the cloud without necessarily having to invest substantially in expanding their own cloud portfolios. Telecom providers also have the opportunity to cross-sell or upsell clients on complementary services.
About the author
Amy Larsen DeCarlo is a principal analyst at Current Analysis, where her research focuses on assessing managed and cloud-based data center and security services.