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Q&A with Jamcracker Discussing Cloud Services Brokers

It is becoming more and more commonplace these days for businesses to embrace cloud services in order to speed up innovation and collaboration.  And many businesses are now consuming multiple private and public cloud services. 

According to Jamcracker, this game-changing dynamic presents a significant opportunity for service providers and traditional channels to extend their "trusted advisory" relationships with their customers by unifying the delivery of cloud services. And for enterprise IT organizations, compliance and life-cycle management concerns are causing them to seek a means to unify the management of cloud services.  

To find out more, I was able to speak with Steve Crawford, Jamcracker's VP of marketing. 

VMblog:  As cloud computing adoption increases, can you tell us, what are some of the issues that you believe will arise?

Crawford:  The biggest issue is that there are many different clouds serving many different needs, and if IT builds a cloud deployment strategy around only a few offerings, such as a hypervisor-specific private cloud, it raises the risk of having to deal with a multitude of services stovepipes down the road. For IT, this means consolidating and managing issues around security, compliance and audit reporting, provisioning, administration and support for external services that are procured directly from external providers, without IT involvement, as well as for their internally hosted private clouds.

VMblog:  Explain to us, if you will, how the role of internal IT is changing?

Crawford:  IT has traditionally managed on-premise resources for the enterprise. They have been the ones to mete out hardware and software to users as needed. With private cloud computing, internal resources are set up so that users can access them on-demand, using only what is needed and eliminating the need for IT to manually give a specific user access to resources. With public cloud services, enterprise departments can and often bypass IT entirely by going out and independently purchasing the resources they need. Ultimately, because of these changes IT will need to evolve to an IT-as-a-service model that sources, delivers and manages different public clouds and internal virtualized services throughout the enterprise. 

VMblog:  You and I have talked about the cloud service broker (CSB) model, can you explain what that is to VMblog readers?

Crawford:  A CSB encompasses technology and processes that ‘broker' relationships between a service consumer and multiple cloud providers. The CSB model provides an architectural, business and IT operations model for enabling, delivering and managing different cloud services within a federated and consistent provisioning, billing, security, administration and support framework. For enterprises, this model will enable them to unify cloud services delivery and life-cycle management so they can speed up innovation, collaborate on a global scale, reduce operational costs and grow their bottom line. For IT service providers, it will enable them to unify the delivery of cloud services and evolve from a license-based delivery model to a services enablement model.  And for technology providers, it provides an opportunity to provide value-added service ecosystems that help differentiate their core offerings to gain market share, increase customer life-time profitability and enable new channels of distribution.

VMblog:  Ok, so what then should enterprise IT be looking for in a CSB?

Crawford:  There will be different models for how a CSB is enabled and utilized.  Small businesses will undoubtedly outsource this function to a 3rd party aggregator, whereas large enterprises will want to operate their own CSBs.  Ultimately, the model will likely evolve to where enterprises operate some elements of a CSB internally for their core public/private cloud consumption, and then ‘connect' their CSB with an external provider's for additional ad hoc services.  This model is analogous to how enterprises today use PBXs for their internal voice networks, but then tie into a service provider's switch for external calls.  Whether they insource or outsource their CSB, Enterprise IT organizations should look for a CSB enablement solution that unifies their cloud delivery architecture, allowing services to be enabled, managed, and delivered in a consistent manner to their employees, customers or through their supply-chain partners.  It should include services integration toolkits and capabilities that allow enterprises to aggregate public and private cloud life-cycle services management and enable single sign-on access, user and service administration, reporting, billing, and helpdesk ticketing capabilities across their user or customer base.  A CSB should also provide connectivity between the services grid and legacy order management systems, billing systems, network monitoring tools, helpdesks, and internal and external directories and databases.

VMblog:  And what should IT managers consider before adopting a CSB model? 

Crawford:  IT managers should start by looking at their current and projected cloud usage across their organization to assess whether they will be managing private, public or - most likely - a hybrid cloud infrastructure. Chances are that IT may not even know about the many different public cloud services already being consumed by departments and individual users, so getting a view on this will be ‘enlightening.'  They should then assess their organizational security, compliance and departmental/user charge-back priorities to assess how these will translate to their aggregate cloud delivery and life-cycle management requirements  Once they have this in place, they will be well positioned to evaluate different CSB enablement strategies and to determine whether they should pursue this as an on-premise, outsourced or hybrid deployment model and appropriate phasing.  A final consideration is that becoming a CSB within their organizations is more than a technology play as it will also require a transformation from a technology-centric purchasing and operations model to more of a services aggregator and provider mentality.  Ultimately, this will change the view of IT within their organizations to be less of a cost-center and more of a strategic enabler who can help their business more quickly and effectively innovate and grow their bottom line.

VMblog:   At what layer is a CSB implemented and how is it integrated into the enterprise?

Crawford:  The CSB solution does not itself host or replicate the cloud services it helps deliver, however it securely stores user credentials which it uses for authentication. After the user is authenticated, they are redirected to the private or public cloud service. The CSB should integrate with existing enterprise systems such as directory services, the helpdesk, support ticketing systems and reporting tools, and enables company policies and workflows to be extended to include cloud services. A standards-based CSB platform foundation ensures that enterprises have the choice and the freedom to integrate with any other solutions or services regardless of technology. 
   
VMblog:   Finally, could you tell us who manages what in the CSB model?

Crawford: It depends. An N-tiered architecture enables centralized control at the corporate level with delegated administrative capabilities at any of the tiers. For example, a corporate IT administrator might be able to view and administer users and services at the global level whereas a line of business administrator may only be allowed to administer services for users within the business unit.

# # #

Thanks again to Steve Crawford, Jamcracker's VP of marketing, for taking time out to speak with VMblog.com.

For more information about cloud services brokers or to find out more information about the company, check out Jamcracker's Web site.

Published Monday, June 20, 2011 5:05 AM by David Marshall
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