Cloud computing is all the rage, one of the growing sectors of a struggling IT industry. But cloud computing is far from mature. Indeed, it's evolving with combinations of complex cloud services too difficult for end users to integrate with any assurance of success.
That's why Gartner is predicting that, as cloud services are adopted, cloud-service brokerages (CSBs) will offer services to govern their use, performance and delivery. Gartner predicts these brokerages will use several types of brokers and platforms to enhance service delivery and, ultimately, service value.
Gartner predicts that worldwide cloud-services revenue will surpass $56.3 billion in 2009, a 21.3 percent increase from the $46.4 billion generated last year. The market could reach $150.1 billion in 2013.
Although cloud services may be delivered through technology, Gartner sees a clear need for brokerage businesses. Gartner defines a brokerage as a service where a broker may simply be a business-to-business (B2B) technology provider. The firm believes CSBs, which will broker relationships between a service consumer and a service provider, are one of the most necessary and attainable opportunities for cloud-service providers.
"The future of cloud computing will be permeated with the notion of brokers negotiating relationships between providers of cloud services and the service customers," said L. Frank Kenney, research director at Gartner. "In this context, a broker might be software, appliances, platforms or suites of technologies that enhance the base services available through the cloud. Enhancement will include managing access to these services, providing greater security, or even creating completely new services."
The Demand for CSBs
Gartner isn't putting any numbers against its predictions, but it does have industry support. The integration between cloud-computing and on-premise systems is on a critical path, as is cloud-provider to cloud-provider connectivity, according to David S. Linthicum, author of Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide.
"Most enterprise architects looking to leverage cloud computing don't factor in the need for integration. That planning needs to be part of the architecture," Linthicum said. "Indeed, we'll need brokers from enterprise-to-cloud and cloud-to-cloud."
As he sees it, CSBs will mitigate the differences in how cloud-computing providers store and manage information, transforming the data and protocols as information moves between cloud providers and on-premise systems, or cloud-to-cloud.
"Just like traditional integration brokers, this will be a complete subsystem which will provide connectivity, semantic mediation, protocol mediation, governance and security service, and can either be delivered as an on-premise system, or more likely as a cloud-computing provider offering integration services on demand," Linthicum said.
Dissecting Cloud-Service Brokerages
Gartner divides CSB businesses into three main categories: Cloud-service intermediation, aggregation and cloud-service arbitrage. According to Gartner, CSBs will offer intermediation for services such as identity management or access management.
In aggregation, Gartner said it's unlikely that consumer organizations or individuals will be able to provide the data integration, process integrity, or intermediation needed to bring multiple services together. An aggregation brokerage service combines multiple services into one or more new services to make sure data is modeled across all component services and integrated, as well as ensuring the movement and security of data between the service consumer and multiple providers.
Finally, cloud-service arbitrages, Gartner said, will play a role similar to cloud-service aggregation. The difference between them is that the services being aggregated aren't fixed. Gartner explained the goal of arbitrage is to provide flexibility and opportunistic choices for the service aggregator, such as providing multiple e-mail services through one service provider or providing a credit-scoring service that checks multiple scoring agencies and selects the best score.
"What sits between you and the cloud will become a critical success factor in cloud computing as cloud services multiply and expand faster than the ability of cloud consumers to manage or govern them in use," said Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and chief Gartner fellow. "The growth of service-brokerage businesses will increase the ability of cloud consumers to use services in a trustworthy manner. Cloud-service providers must begin to partner with cloud brokerages to ensure that they can deliver the services they promote."
The Rise of CSBs
Where will these CSBs come from? Gartner expects individual cloud-service consumers will acquire these intermediation services through some consumer-focused service providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, Telestra or Virgin Media. But there is also a need, as Linthicum noted, on the enterprise side.
"There are a few integration-on-demand and appliance-based players out there that focus on SaaS-to-enterprise, but only provide small portions of the functionality required, in my opinion, for the more complex cloud-computing architecture," Linthicum said. "Also, there are very expensive and traditional integration engines that run on-premise, but while more feature-rich, have not been focusing on cloud computing."
As he sees it, a more comprehensive integration stack is required, and it's going to take some investment on somebody's part, either by the cloud providers or investors forming a startup. CSBs, as Gartner suggests, could fill the gap.
Posted: 2010-04-20 @ 4:11pm PT
There are companies who are doing cloud services aggregated delivery / management, for example Telstra's T-Suite. Jamcracker (http://www.jamcracker.com/Unified-Cloud-Services) provides a platform that enables service providers to aggregate cloud offerings from multiple providers and deliver them via a unified self-service portal with single sign-on access for their customers.
Enterprise IT Operations will increasingly become internal cloud services brokers by using technology from providers such as Jamcracker to deliver private and public cloud services to their internal 'customers.'