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Cloud Service Brokers: Key Considerations

Many companies are considering using a cloud services broker and/or leveraging a multi-cloud management platform to support aggregation, governance and interoperability. If you are using multiple cloud providers, the ability to gain support for uniform operations, a single user interface, and unified billing is highly appealing.

But is  a cloud services broker or multi-cloud management platform the right solution for your company? Ask these questions as you research the alternatives to avoid potential issues.

What are your management and governance challenges?

It's critical to gain a deep understanding of the challenges your business is facing today. Some of your governance challenges, particularly those related to “shadow IT” might not be clear. Understanding both your current challenges and those you are likely to face in the near term is crucial in finding the right solution and selecting a cloud service broker.

How many cloud providers need to be managed? What level of interoperability is required between these cloud services? Do you have clearly defined policies supported by the security, compliance and auditing practices in place today? What support do you require to measure, monitor and enforce security and compliance across cloud environments? What process changes will the adoption of a cloud brokerage service introduce? Understand the role you want the cloud service broker to play in supporting and orchestrating your multi-cloud IT environment.

How complex is your IT architecture, and do non-native cloud applications require support from the cloud service broker?

Many applications are built for the cloud; they are conceived to conform to standardized features and functionality. However, in the enterprise space, this is far from the norm. Organizations often require complicated and custom solutions to cater to monolithic and resource-intensive applications that still have a place in an enterprise's future architecture. How will these be handled, if at all, through a cloud service broker or with a multi-cloud management platform? Will the management platform provide the visibility and governance required for these types of applications? Would the cloud services broker be able to provide adequate support?

What are the service level agreements (SLAs) requirements?

Are there specific SLA requirements that must be met, and penalty fees to be negotiated? In addition, are there any specific service management requirements such as incident reports and monthly/weekly service reviews? Managed services such as OS patch management, backups and disaster recovery requirements should be considered. Can these more complex responsibilities be managed through the cloud services broker seamlessly?

What is the cloud service broker's buying power?

Is your company large enough to be able to negotiate special discounts from cloud providers? Will the cloud services broker be able to pass through these discounts? Depending on the cloud provider, there could be special discount amounts, commitment sliding scales or rebates that do not fit into the cloud broker’s operating model.

What is the most critical requirement for an efficient service catalog?

When a company wants to access many cloud platforms to meet critical application availability needs within multiple regions, the end solution may take the form of a service catalog. The catalog integrates with an existing ITSM system and enables a set of standardized deployment templates on various platforms without needing an intermediary provider. A predefined cost can be allocated to a specific template and adjusted based on the destination of the deployment.

For example, if the production version of a template must go with cloud provider A because there is an SLA in place, and the platform is more suited to the workload characteristics of this template, it will have a value in line with the provider’s rate card. The development and user acceptance testing instances may go to a more commoditized platform, and the service catalog item would reflect this lower cost. This functionality may need to be determined and designed per client and not adequately addressed through a multi-cloud service platform. In this instance, the internal IT service team can play the role of aggregator and present the business with a mechanism to address its needs quickly and cost effectively.

Many organizations need a less complex overarching multi-cloud management platform as much as they simply need a way to manage their service catalog and control spending by putting the correct workloads on the right cloud platform. This doesn't mean that multi-cloud platforms and cloud service brokers don't have a place -- they fill a real need and address some key concerns of CIOs who require the support of billing aggregation, interoperability, and complex workload migrations between providers. When building solutions, whether internal or external to your organization, it’s key to understand the current requirements and the future state that will support the business as it matures.