How 'cloud brokers' help you navigate cloud services

The concept of cloud broker is taking shape, but its value is not clear, especially for the long term

What's a cloud broker? Gartner defines it as "a type of cloud service provider that plays an intermediary role in cloud computing." Perhaps better put, they help you locate the best and most cost-effective cloud provider for your needs.

The idea is compelling. You're looking for a storage-as-a-service provider, and instead of going to them directly, you use a broker to gather your requirements and find the best fit -- in some cases, several good fits that you can use based on the best cost, availability, and performance.

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There are two types of cloud brokers emerging: passive and active.

Passive cloud brokers provide information and assist you in finding the right cloud-based solution. They may gather your requirements, understand budgets, then pick the best cloud providers for your needs and wallet. They even assist you in signing up, perhaps wetting their beaks in the process.

Active cloud brokers may provide dynamic access to different cloud providers based on cost and performance data, and they could use different cloud providers at different times, based on what best serves their clients. They may even multiplex cloud providers so that clients use a single interface serviced by many providers. This is analogous to least-cost routing of phone calls back in the day, taking a request for service -- say, storage -- and seeking the best cloud provider for the job at that time, perhaps using performance, availability, and cost data. Then the agent would broker the relationship between the client and the cloud provider.

The advantages of cloud brokers are cost savings and information. Indeed, as the number of cloud providers continues to grow, a single interface for information, combined with service, could be compelling to companies that prefer to spend more time with their clouds than doing the research.

At the same time, the value of a cloud broker is undetermined, considering that cloud computing is still emerging and the provider choices could become more obvious. In such a case, brokers won't have as much value.

This article, "How 'cloud brokers' help you navigate cloud services," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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