Make sense of cloud service brokers

CSBs help you manage your mix of public and private clouds, but their capabilities vary widely

Don't look now, but the U.S. cloud service broker (CSB) market will grow from $225.4 million in 2013 to $2 billion by 2018, growing 55.3 percent per year. The global CSB market will grow from $1.6 billion in 2013 to $10.5 billion by 2018, growing 46.2 percent per year, according to MarketsandMarkets.

I deal with CSBs more and more as an increasing number of enterprises move to multicloud approaches. Another factor is that IT increasingly takes on the role of providing cloud services to the rest of the enterprise, and it needs automated ways to manage those services.

In general, CSBs are intended to provide technology that ensures interoperability of public and private cloud services, as well as provide common management, governance, and security services (in some cases).

Although most enterprises look to CSBs' ability to automatically select services or provide a selection of services, CSBs can do much more:

  • They provide automated selection of the right cloud services that should provide the best performance, reliability, and cost efficiency.
  • They provide management services, including the ability to self- and autoprovision cloud services, as well as the ability to analyze the services in terms of performance and even govern the services using policies.
  • They provide the ability to report on the cloud service usage, to understand who's providing the best price/performance ratio, and how much the users should pay for the services in both showback and chargeback.

CSB providers include AppDirect, Ensim, Gravitant, Jamcracker, Parallels, Ostrato, and Nervogrid.

Each CSB provider has its own approach to what a CSB is and does. You need to dig into the candidate providers' core capabilities before you commit to one. I haven't seen two that do the same things, much less the same way. As a result, enterprises that want a CSB to be front and center in their cloud computing strategy are struggling to figure out exactly what they need.

That lack of consistency is frustrating. It's easy to define the business case. However, it's not easy to map that to the providers.

Despite the differences in what each offers, CSBs clearly have a great deal of value if you use them appropriately: providing a common mechanism to access public and private cloud computing services, ensuring that these services are both cost-effective and deliver as expected.

I hope some CSB standards will emerge; that would help the industry gain more traction.

I know this space will change a great deal in the next few years, so today's selection might not be right tomorrow. Choose carefully, and be able to change your CSB approach in the future.

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