Cloud brokers

Cloud broker is a nice buzz word that I have seen banded about a lot this year, so on that basis I thought i’d join the bandwagon and have a go at talking about them myself! Within this post I will give a high level overview of the “state of brokerage” today and then give you a few high level requirements I would want to acheive from an employed broker service.

So what are they

Brokers in the world of cloud computing, appear to be compared to how a Commodity stock broker works, with that broker purchasing cloud workloads based on factors such as supply and demand shortage or peak events that require large amounts of compute. Based on what the industry pundits or analysts are saying what a cloud broker actually is I fail to see hardly any evidence or practical use case to suggest this is the reality. One of the reasons I suspect that this is, is partly due to one of the big issues that is seen across all emergent supportive technologies and strategy relevant to cloud computing, which are;

  • A lack of solid standard definition
  • A lack of actually shipping a service or product that meets this standard definition.

Currently today though from my observation it seems that cloud computing brokers can be classed with some of the following definition;

  • Teams that reside within an organisation who find you the best suitable environment and price for IT services, I guess you could say this is the likes of you and me still today,
  • A system integrator or telecoms provider providing general sourcing of compute across partners or alliances,
  • Or it could be a purchased or “aaS” software solution that goes and selects most appropriate set of inputted business objective such as service level/locale/price etc,

A personal view is that when I re-read this post in 1-2 years the above list of definition will probably have grown even bigger and more diverse. I beleive that the cloud broker will probably not evolve into being one thing, they will be defined as a series of tasks and processes that can be fulfilled in many shapes and forms to obtain best value. A comparative is how people perform vendor selection and procurement today for commodity based Items, some still source the best deal for there business using a dedicated team, some use reverse auctions to let “the mountain come to Mohamed” and some use external benchmarked pricing indexes to ensure they are getting a good price.

My Broker

So we have  established that the current definitions of a cloud broker is a bit wooly still, however lets take the issue of definition factor away and  I will delve into the charateristics that I would want a future cloud broker to be able to exhibit and do for my organisation. I’ve compiled a strawman below of some of the general questions that I would want to be answered or provided by using the “Cloud broker”:

Service availability
  • Total figures for total actual Datacentre’s that a provider has on a per region/country basis,
  • Capability to obtain information on total gross available compute workload within market cloud providers,
  • Available compute over subscription levels that are potentially available for any targetted workloads,
  • SLA service offerings, with these including a match to inputted translated business metric,
  • Cloud provider contingency for any potential cloud datacentre failure,
Performance/capacity
  • Ability to find the best throughput/network latency for cloud locations or point of presences based on my businesses location,
  • Capable IOP metric, using a industry standard benchmark tools such as Swing bench or IOMeter,
  • Load testing results from industry benchmark tool,
  • Archival capability, along with associated prices,
Automation/Management
  • VM deployment times,
  • VM potential burst scenario time, this needs to be something I can simulate,
  • Monitoring presentation method,
  • API Architecture,
  • Portability capability, could be in the shape and form of VM file format, service interfaces etc,
Commercial
  • My best available offered price for compute, storage, network costs,
  • In a similar way to how we search best price on hotels/flights, I would want a broker to do this for comparison of compute, storage and networking cost,
  • Trended pricing metric, i.e. I want to see how much a cloud provider has either raised or reduced pricing over its history,
  • VM standard image sizing, to equate my storage cost,
  • Block size of formatted storage, to again equate my storage growth overhead,
  • CDMI support,
Service provider/customer references
  • Provider quoted service reputation weighting, i.e. based on existing customer feedback, reviews, general service perception,
  • An independent service review search, I want to be able to obtain underwritten third party written advice and compare against what the vendor actually says,

Generally a broker will have at least a minimal price associated to either the software or people doing the brokerage on your behalf, based on this I would expect my broker to have the following important charateristics,

  • Added value to my business other than just taking the commission,
  • Removing the sales bombardment that we all loathe,
  • Most importantly, taking accountability by under writing any actions that are brokered for me (controversial one that),
Summary

Above are just some of the charateristics I can think of being relevant for a business today, as cloud computing evolves and the technology matures I am sure more will appear and become relevant. Items i’ve compiled would no doubt today go into an RFI/P, maybe as I have predicted before on the dissolve of RFI/P, the cloud brokerage service will abolish the RFI/P with a replacement being a more efficient process that has the immediate business logic input.

Some of the quoted content may already exist, and some you may think are exceptionally all quite eccentric ideas, but I would hope that  has given you food for thought in trying to establish the true definition of a cloud broker is.

Now for a commercial break – Train Signal

You may have noticed that I have just recently added an advertisement for Train Signal CBT http://www.trainsignal.com.

To be honest I’m not one for advertising single vendors, however with an organisation who has a core business of training I am more than happy to spread the good word on the Blog about their offerings and material.  Having been mentored by some great leaders in my time, over the years they have taught me the fundamental benefits of ensuring that a team is fully trained and has a standardised skill set for technology within the responsible areas of IT.

Also I have most certainly been taught that it is important to contiunally invest and develop employees to get the most out of them and ensure that they provide great value to the service delivery given to your business.

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I personally endorse train signal, I have checked out the VMware training and will also be going through when I get time, the Exchange 2010 product training material.

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