Like with many IT roles, the job description of a cloud broker is imprecise. Typically, a cloud broker equips enterprises with the knowledge and tools they need to choose a cloud provider, but some can go beyond that. Are you using your cloud broker to its full potential?
Each broker has a high level of cloud expertise to help enterprises in various ways. On a basic level, the third party acts like a consultant, examining a corporation's technical and business needs and finding appropriate cloud solutions. The cloud broker then delivers an apple-to-apple evaluation of cloud services so the customer has a better chance of choosing its optimal services. Pricing plays a role in that process; brokers sometimes offer lower pricing than a business would receive on its own.
But cloud brokers -- such as Gravitant Inc., Jamcracker Inc., Ostrato Inc. and Parallels Inc. -- also offer companies various higher-level services, such as integration, security, management, billing and licensing, big data and provisioning.
- Integration. No matter what type of cloud service a company chooses, it will connect at least a few of its existing applications to that cloud. A broker helps businesses understand what must be integrated, and it sometimes offers software development kits with APIs that ease the integration work. The support may extend after the service is up and running; brokers can take on help desk functions, answering questions employees have if problems arise with the cloud service.
- Security. Security is a major concern as enterprises move information off-site. Brokers will tie cloud services into a company's back-end system to ensure only authorized users access sensitive information. The broker's service may support features such as single sign-on and encryption.
- Central management. Once the cloud service is active, brokers offer more value adds. A central management console delivers a unified view about how each piece of the IT environment operates -- for example, illustrating service availability and employee usage rates.
- Billing and licensing. Cloud brokers can assist with complicated billing, consolidating billing data from multiple cloud services into a single system or establishing client-specific billing procedures, such as paying invoices every two weeks. This third-party help extends to license management, a tedious area to oversee given the rise of the bring your own device (BYOD) movement in enterprises.
- Big data. In this era of big data, enterprises want to consolidate and manipulate cloud service information. The brokers can pull information from a variety of places and place it in a central catalog. Then, customer management personnel rely on dashboards to get quick glimpses into service performance. For example, companies may check to see how well the provider is meeting metrics specified in its service-level agreement.
- Provisioning. In more sophisticated cloud brokerage services, the information catalog is tied to a provisioning portal. Here, business units gain more control over their use of cloud services; rather than wait for the IT department to allocate a service, they do it themselves.
About the author:
Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in cloud computing issues. He has been covering technology issues for more than two decades, is based in Sudbury, Mass., and can be reached at email@example.com.