What's the best cloud services broker option?

A cloud services broker role can be filled by a third party, a cloud provider or even in-house IT. So which is the best option for my business?

What are my options for engaging with a cloud services brokerage?

Deploying and supporting a cloud services brokerage model can be tough. One reason for the complexity is that a variety of parties -- ranging from in-house IT to a cloud provider itself -- can assume all, or some, of a CSB's responsibilities.

A cloud services brokerage (CSB) delivers three main services: aggregation, integration and customization, according to Gartner. And while these services don't typically require the use of any specific hardware or software, there are some exceptions.

The main exception is when the cloud services broker is also the cloud provider. A provider might assume some elements of a CSB role, such as consulting or integration assistance. For example, a provider can assess your organization's cloud-readiness, or assist with data migration and customization. However, beyond the necessary computing and connectivity, there are generally no additional requirements for providers to perform brokerage-type activities.

In organizations with an on-premises private cloud, internal IT may assume some, or all, of the CSB role. This is especially common in organizations with a mature private cloud infrastructure, where computing, and all applications, are treated as a service. In this case, the in-house CSB also supports the hardware and software that underpins the private cloud.

In addition to a cloud provider or internal IT team, an independent third party may also act as a CSB. This is one of the most common CSB models. In it, the cloud broker acts similarly to a consultant or VAR, providing services and helping guide its clients' purchasing decisions.

Many cloud services brokers overlook the importance of ongoing monitoring and customer support. CSBs must go beyond simply selling services and ensure their services are used efficiently, said Pete Sclafani, COO and co-founder of 6connect, a network automation solutions provider in San Francisco, CA. To do this, CSBs can use monitoring tools to track service usage, spot bottlenecks and recommend potential improvements.

"One of the biggest tasks when deploying this [cloud] environment is not only understanding how customers are using the platform -- providing the cloud provider and CSB with revenue -- but also having the tools in place to do so," Sclafani said.

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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