Cloud Service Brokerages Emerge As New Integrators

A cloud service brokerage serves as an intermediary between you and your cloud service provider by aggregating multiple cloud services, integrating then with in-house apps and customizing them to meet your needs. See how this new breed of IT service provider is changing the cloud landscape.

By John Moore
Mon, December 10, 2012

CIO — When the Museum of Modern Art in New York took on two cloud projects, it decided to reach outside the organization for some extra help.

MoMA sought to migrate from its on-premises email system to a Google-hosted environment and adopt's CRM offering to gain more insight into donors and members. MoMA CTO Juan Montes read up on Appirio, a San Francisco-based services provider, after receiving a tip that the company was "a vendor with cloud chops." A meeting with Appirio's CEO sealed the deal: The museum tapped Appirio for guidance on both the Gmail and Salesforce deployments.

Montes cited Appirio's cloud expertise and specialized tooling as factors in its selection. "In the case of Gmail, they had the tools and methods to take information as it was in the on-premise context and port it to a cloud context," he says. "It would have been very difficult for us to develop those tools in a timely way. It would have been very costly to us. They had the tools and the know-how and were ready to go and we could do the implementation in a very short period of time."

Cloud Service Brokerages Will Be Big ($100 Billion Big)

Setting up cloud services with third-party assistance is becoming an increasingly common approach among enterprises. Gartner refers to those intermediaries as cloud service brokerages, or CSBs. The market researcher forecasts the annual IT spend on CSB services will reach $100 billion by 2014.

Gartner research published earlier this year defines three roles for CSBs: aggregation, integration and customization. A CSB-as-aggregator pulls together multiple cloud services and provides them to the end customer, essentially acting as a reseller.

The integration role, meanwhile, calls for the broker to link cloud services and on-premises systems, while customization involves the tweaking of cloud services to meet the customer's needs or the creation of applications to run in the cloud setting.

The IT spotlight periodically shines on intermediaries, particularly in times of transition. Systems integrators emerged in the 1980s as custom software began to drive solutions rather than the underlying mainframes. A decade later, the big iron-to-client-and-server transition coincided with the rise of specialty integrators able to assist with that shift.

Commentary: How Cloud Computing Is Forcing IT Evolution

"Cloud brokerage and aggregation is today's version of systems integration," says Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies, a consulting firm that focuses on software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud computing.

Michael Cohn, senior vice president of marketing at Atlanta-based cloud solution provider Cloud Sherpas, suggests that cloud brokers mark the latest iteration of the IT channel, noting that such companies represent a merging of resellers, systems integrators and ISVs.

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