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Cloud Brokerage – beyond the hype

18 Nov 13

Cloud brokerage is getting a lot of hype – partly because it sounds cool, and largely because no-one really knows what it means.

So, as a public service to you all, here’s my take on the topic.

Cloud brokerage covers a multitude of sins. In its purest definition, cloud brokerage represents the brokering of compute and storage in a way not too dissimilar to electricity and share trading. Want 1000 compute units for the next two hours?

A pure cloud broker would seamlessly provide you with that service – you would be unaware as to whether your compute was running on Azure, AWS, Google, Rackspace or the myriad of other utility compute providers. Your focus would be on the most efficient resource allocation (subject to some appropriate SLA / non-functional requirements of course).

Looking overseas there are some interesting examples of pure cloud brokerage in action – particularly in Europe. There is even a cloud exchange on the German stock exchange that takes brokerage to the same level as the electricity market. Cloud futures anyone?

The reality is that very few organisations have such elastic and transparent demand. Our customers are typically looking for more than compute cycles and storage. They’re usually looking to run applications for extended periods of time and have particular requirements they need met.

As such, they’re seeking a deeper understanding of the cloud platform that their workload will run on. We do have some customers who simply trust us to operate a service for them – but in this case, they’re seeking a managed service for that application not a brokerage of workload.

So, what does “Cloud Brokerage” mean in a practical sense for us here in ANZ? What is an appropriate definition of the role of the Cloud Broker? Perhaps a good example is that of an Insurance Broker – someone who understands your specific requirements – risk profile, price expectations etc. – and recommends the best offering to use.

The Insurance broker metaphor breaks down a bit given that unlike signing an insurance contract you usually need to do some work to implement a cloud solution. As such, customers should expect a cloud broker to actually do the implementation for you.

This might seem like something of a conflict of interest – but the reality is that unless recommendations come from a company that actually understands the practical implications of implementing your solution on the platform they’re recommending you’re going to get bad advice.

For example, Fronde has been implementing cloud solutions and partnering with world leading cloud providers for almost a decade. We know from experience where the potential fishhooks are in deploying our cloud solutions. These wouldn’t be apparent to someone who just reads websites, watches webinars and plays with demo accounts.

Any organisation looking for more than compute cycles and storage should look for a partner that understands your requirements; delivers the best cloud solution to meet those needs; and can implement it too.

By James Valentine - Fronde