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Is the cloud services brokerage model redefining IT?

Cloud brokers connect a growing landscape of service providers with busy business users. But what impact would they have on my IT team?

What is a cloud services brokerage? How is it changing IT?

While cloud computing brings flexibility and valuable business services to an enterprise, it can also bring anxiety and confusion. As a result, many businesses turn to a cloud services brokerage.

Widely credited with coining the term cloud services brokerage (CSB) in 2011, Gartner defines CSB as an intermediary service to bridge the gap between cloud service providers and the organizations that use them.

According to Gartner, CSBs perform three primary functions: aggregate disparate cloud services; integrate cloud services into existing infrastructures; and customize cloud services to meet end user needs. A CSB, for example, can gauge whether a business is ready for the cloud, and then identify the specific services it needs. A cloud services brokerage can also negotiate contracts between cloud providers and their users.

"I view this as, fundamentally, the same kind of role that the VAR [value-add reseller] or consultant community has been filling for years," said Sid Herron, channel director at VirtualQube, a cloud provider in Woodinville, Wash. "The only difference being the emphasis on cloud services."

The CSB model affects both business users and IT. New technologies, such as cloud, demand new skills within an organization. Businesses often acquire these skills through external talent, such as consultants. Then, as the technology matures, businesses develop these skills in-house.

But, with new cloud services emerging, organizations struggle to keep pace -- and that's where CSBs come in. These brokers must be on the leading edge of technology, while those playing "catch up" will become irrelevant.

As cloud matures and proliferates, the CSB role will shift from an essential cloud technology enabler to an ongoing business partner. Ultimately, to work effectively with cloud service brokerages, on-premises IT teams need to expand their staff and skills.

"I see these shifts changing the IT and data center role from 'operational' to 'vendor management,'" said Pete Sclafani, COO and co-founder of 6connect, a network automation solutions provider in San Francisco. "It requires the person in the IT role to understand the value that these brokers can provide and also understand the business mindset behind purchasing decisions."

Stephen J. Bigelow is the senior technology editor of the Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected].

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