What used to be IT sourcing at the physical system level is turning into an exercise at the virtual cloud level, but with a new actor, the cloud broker.
In theory, the cloud solves many IT sourcing problems, of which one of the most obvious is the requirement for capital to buy physical systems that are never run to full capacity.
Pay-as-you-go turns CAPEX into OPEX, while previous luxuries like hot standby systems become an affordable reality.
Yet the cloud also opens new sourcing challenges of unknowns and inconsistencies.
Cloud brokers can help, at least while they themselves survive as a species.
Cloud brokers help enterprises to sort out their virtual IT sourcing by federating individual cloud offerings as seen by the client enterprise. The nearest equivalent from the traditional hardware/software world is the systems integrator.
The cloud broker, like the systems integrator, can help enterprises cope with technology, get coverage of the areas and functionality needed, and iron out inconsistencies in contracts and service-level agreements.
Cloud adoption for an enterprise can be enhanced via additional cloud broker services and support.
Several factors suggest that cloud IT sourcing may move away from the cloud broker model, however.
- Price pressure. With the consumerism of IT, enterprises too are looking for the same consumer price discounts. Thinner margins mean less links in the sales chain.
- User-friendliness. Cloud solutions, user interfaces, and management dashboards are becoming easier to use every day.
- Customer literacy. Business customers, even small business customers, are getting smarter about cloud IT. The more they know, the less they need the services of a middleman.
- Open standards. OpenStack software provides de facto standards to interconnect cloud services, facilitating solutions that mix different cloud provider offerings.
In the physical world, systems integrators have survived by moving with the market and developing skills to meet new needs.
In the virtual world, cloud brokers may also achieve longevity in the same way. Whatever the future holds, however, financial strength, cloud management tools (including those accessible to the client enterprise), and level of added value are likely to remain essential criteria for choosing a cloud broker.