Cloud broker on platform overlooking clouds

Cloud broker software an emerging force for enterprise migrations

The term “cloud broker” currently has two definitions that are different enough to cause confusion in the government IT community, especially in the frenetic landscape of cloud computing.

Originally, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cloud Computing Reference Architecture defined a cloud broker as an entity (person or organization) that provides intermediary-type services between a cloud consumer and multiple cloud providers. For the Defense Department, the DOD CIO specified that the Defense Information Systems Agency would fulfill the role of Enterprise Cloud Service Broker. This is the traditional definition of a broker, akin to a stock broker or commodity broker, where an intermediary assists a customer navigate through a complex environment of many options. A better name for this may be “cloud agent.” 

A second definition of cloud broker pertains to a new type of software that sits on top of cloud providers to abstract, simplify and map various cloud offerings to your environment. Cloud broker software assists organizations in creating solutions in the cloud, migrating solutions to the cloud and moving solutions between clouds.

Recently the Health and Human Services Department sent out a request for information entitled, “Cloud Broker Vendor Questionnaire for Cloud Capabilities” that did an excellent job of laying out a set of detailed requirements for cloud broker software. It is interesting to note that the RFI refers to the traditional, entity-based definition of cloud broker services as “business brokerage capabilities.”  The rest of the RFI is 19 pages of questions that lay out an impressive requirements list by asking vendors if they support various features, use cases and criteria. The key requirements for cloud broker software are as follows:

  • An editable service catalog to enable discovery of services and solutions migrated to the cloud or available as software-as-a-service (SAAS) applications.
  • A provisioning engine that can create server images across one or more cloud providers, perform load analysis and capacity planning, scale to many users and offer rule-based elasticity. The engine should even be able to handle cross-cloud provisioning and support interoperability and data portability.  Finally, the engine should provide security, privacy and COOP services.
  • Identity management services that can manager users and even pass credentials to a particular cloud provider. 
  • Billing and pricing services so that consumers only pay for what they need and expenditures are accurately tracked across cloud providers.
  • Intermediation enhancements to migration, provisioning (cloud and cross-cloud), identity management and reporting.
  • The cloud broker software itself should be a cloud application that is distributed, scalable and supports integration.

There are a number of commercial vendors offering cloud broker software and services. One of the largest vendors in this space is NASDAQ which offers its FinQloud as an intermediation layer on top of the Amazon Web Services cloud for the financial sector.  One of the chief selling points for FinQloud is that NASDAQ understands the financial industry's regulations and requirements and has augmented the Amazon Cloud platform with the appropriate security mechanisms.

InCadence's solution, entitled Axon and which I have written about in previous articles, focuses on intermediation enhancements to migration to move the conversation from migrating servers to the cloud to migrating entire solutions to the cloud.

Finally, there is an open source project called CompatibleOne that is working on a standards-based, cross-cloud provisioning engine.

While their definitions may differ, it is clear that both cloud brokerage services and cloud broker software are powerful emerging trends that will accelerate enterprise adoption and the migration of applications to the cloud.

About the Author

Michael C. Daconta (mdaconta@incadencecorp.com) is the Vice President of Advanced Technology at InCadence Strategic Solutions and the former Metadata Program Manager for the Homeland Security Department. His new book is entitled, The Great Cloud Migration: Your Roadmap to Cloud Computing, Big Data and Linked Data.

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