New in cloud: Brokers that let you select providers by the job

A new development in cloud computing is the emergence of cloud brokers, services that let organizations choose cloud providers by the job and change providers on the fly depending on prices or services.

They can help government agencies purchase those cloud services and facilitate cross-platform integration and communication, industry experts who provide those services told an audience at the FOSE Conference and Exposition.

Cloud service brokers will have portals to allow government users to go to a URL, create virtual data centers, test applications on those different virtual data centers, and compare costs between different cloud providers, said Kevin Jackson, manager of cloud services with NJVC, a provider of cloud broker services for the defense and intelligence communities.

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They will deploy those applications with one cloud service provider and, if the price changes, they can take their business to a different cloud service provider, Jackson said April 3 at a FOSE panel session on optimizing control and security in the cloud. FOSE is being held by GCN’s parent company, 1105 Media, at the Washington Convention Center.

But how will that help agencies that don’t even understand their own costs? asked Fred Whiteside, project manager with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cloud Computing Program, who moderated the panel.

Through a cloud broker portal, agencies could connect their own private cloud and compare the cost of services across different cloud providers, Jackson said. They could then make decisions on real costs and customers' usage patterns.

Texas has been doing this for the past few years, using multiple cloud providers and shifting services based on operation needs and costs, Jackson said. “They have been able to choose multiple cloud providers for multiple agencies,” he added.

Jim Sweeney, CTO of GTSI, said there are currently three roles for cloud brokers:

  • Helping the government purchase cloud. “Cloud providers want to let customers pay by the drink,” Sweeney said. GTSI has included in its contract vehicles the ability to let agencies purchase services and not exceed usage. Every month, GTSI provides users with the monitoring and program management capabilities to ensure they do not exceed usage. The company is providing these services for dozens of state and local customers, Sweeney said.
  • Providing architecture and design services. A user may have a standard application and want to move to an Amazon cloud zone. However, they might find that the application is no more fault tolerant, scalable or secure than it was in their data center 10 minutes before. “You have to architect differently for the cloud to take advantage of those” capabilities, he said.
  • Ensuring that applications are secure. There are things users can do to secure applications, such as encrypt cloud file systems and make sure only certain Web servers are communicating with application servers. However, once again, brokers can help users from a tactical level design a secure architecture, Sweeney said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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