|By Matt Davies||
|February 25, 2013 10:00 AM EST||
The cloud is often touted as the answer to all our problems. It offers countless possibilities, from increased agility and reduced costs for enterprises, to a revenue lifeline for service providers as they take their first steps toward becoming a cloud broker. The cloud broker model can give service providers the chance to avoid commoditization by repackaging their own offerings together with cloud services and selling these to customers.
But cloud brokers beware. There's a risk of being a jack of all trades and master of none. It's crucial to ensure that a cloud offering is designed to meet the needs of a specific market. For example, enterprises and small/medium sized businesses (SMBs) will hardly subscribe to all cloud services from a single provider. So which approach is best for which target market?
Serving the needs of SMBs
For telcos with access to a large number of customers in the SMB space, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) broker is the best way to go. This allows telcos to leverage their broad customer access and sell SaaS applications to SMBs in addition to their carrier portfolio. SMBs will not only expect consolidated provisioning and billing but also an aggregation of services and federation of data across multiple SaaS applications provided by the broker.
CloudItalia, a company combining telecommunication and cloud computing services specifically dedicated to small and medium enterprises in Italy, as an example, is offering a core set of services that are vertically focused and aimed specifically at the SMB customer segment. This approach is all about providing pre-packaged services that, as much as possible, are a `no brainer' for SMBs to work with. MashApp tools are critical here. They provide the capability to build services by creating mash-ups of the business applications SMBs are most likely to require such as Saleforce.com. Together with orchestration tools this allows users to build the exact services they require. Because the cloud service provision component is based on the company's existing telecom business with its own network, this gives CloudItalia's customers particular benefits.
Forrester's Forrsights survey data showed that at the end 2012, on average nine different SaaS applications were used at the same time in a single business. This will increase to 13 by the end of 2013. This requires a higher automation of billing and integration among all SaaS applications used, including a flexible subscription approach for individual employees. All of these challenges are potential value propositions for future SaaS brokers.
The enterprise approach
Enterprises seriously moving to cloud infrastructure require a mixture of multiple cloud infrastructure services, very likely from multiple providers. Systems integrators (SIs) and dedicated cloud infrastructure providers will get the most out of becoming Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) brokers. Providing dynamic sourcing across public, virtual private and private clouds, this broker model leverages temporary spare capacity on-premise and combines it with spot price offerings of virtual private or public cloud providers. Cloud infrastructure offerings vary by reliability, price, local presence of data centers, legal compliance, performance and many other characteristics. SIs can retain or establish customer relationship with these enterprise buyers by offering the full portfolio of their own cloud services and reselling public cloud IaaS from others. Infrastructure broker services add a unique value and make the multi-provider portfolio consumable.
According to Forrester's Forrsights Hardware Survey, nine percent of all enterprises today use a hybrid cloud infrastructure, mixing a private cloud with an external cloud provider. This number is expected to increase to 26 percent by 2015, and Forrsights data indicates that half of that group will be using sophisticated cloud management such as policy-driven provisioning. This group will drive the adoption of infrastructure broker services in the future.
A unified future
It is possible that a single company might deliver multiple cloud broker models, as a ‘unified cloud broker.' A sophisticated business process-driven provisioning framework, which supports the dynamic sourcing of both infrastructure and SaaS applications, would obviously provide a huge synergy for providers looking forward to a unified cloud broker. Technology vendors and their ecosystem of partners are getting ready to deliver this spectrum. However, it takes a cloud provider at least a year to merge discrete broker services into a unified cloud broker business model and technology stack. This is one reason that we are yet to see any unified cloud broker offerings on the market. But watch this space, it won't be long. At that time, the cloud's countless possibilities will be much more of a reality.