Guest post by Chris Hale, Liaison Technologies
The intent of cloud computing is to extract technical complexity by offering computing as a service, thereby reducing IT costs and freeing IT staff to focus on achieving higher-level business objectives. For many firms, these objectives are increasingly centered on the extended enterprise and a valuable network of customers, suppliers, business partners and cloud providers.
However, using cloud services for both back-office systems and B2B processes requires a high level of coordination and integration due to the inherent interdependencies. It’s one thing for these different services to exist as independent islands that never need to interconnect, or as loosely connected point-to-point interfaces. That’s easy to do. It’s another thing to outsource interdependent business processes to multiple cloud service providers. This becomes very complex, very quickly, and can mean adding staff and resources — whether it’s for writing code or just managing the integration process — either of which can negate many of the cloud computing benefits.
This complexity is giving rise to a new computing model. The integration cloud services brokerage (CSB) manages the complexity of the growing number and types of multi-enterprise integrations. This can mean integrating hundreds of external business partners with internal business applications, processes, services and data. The integration brokerage model unleashes the potential of the cloud as a platform for multi-enterprise partnerships designed to deliver new and innovative products and services to customers. However, despite a plethora of articles on this topic, much confusion still surrounds cloud integration.
What an Integration CSB Is
Every company that adopts a broad cloud computing strategy will encounter, and likely engage, multiple third-party cloud services providers. Unfortunately, the APIs (application programming interfaces) that enable organizations to interact with the various cloud services providers can be very complex.
The purpose of an integration cloud services broker is to buffer your organization from the technical details of interacting with these clouds. Consolidating (or brokering) multiple cloud services into a single connection between your company and the integration brokerage helps to simplify the on-boarding and use of cloud services while providing the added benefit of aggregating, normalizing, customizing and enhancing business information in the cloud.
Industry analysts predict that the cloud services brokerage model is a high-impact trend that will dramatically affect the entire $845 billion IT services industry. The cloud integration role is rapidly being incorporated into IT services, including consulting and system integration, application services, business process outsourcing and utility (BPO/BPU), and B2B commerce.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines a cloud broker as “an entity that manages the use, performance, and delivery of cloud services and negotiates relationships between cloud providers and cloud consumers.”
NIST identifies three categories of services provided by cloud brokers, including:
- Service intermediation. Providing value-added services or improving a capability such as managing access to the cloud, performance reporting, or security.
- Service aggregation. Combining and integrating multiple services (for example, by providing data integration or securely moving data between multiple cloud providers).
- Service arbitrage. Similar to service aggregation, but the cloud services are not fixed (for example, checking multiple cloud services for competitive shipping rates or providing access to multiple e-mail services).
What an Integration CSB Isn’t
An integration cloud services brokerage is not a cloud services provider. It does not host applications, nor does it provide access to specific applications or sell cloud services. However, an integration brokerage can help you find suitable cloud services providers and it can help you negotiate services with those providers.
How to recognize an integration cloud services broker:
An integration brokerage:
- Retains and leverages intellectual property to avoid “one-off” solutions
- Has a direct contractual relationship with service consumers
- Brokers a minimum of at least one cloud service
- Adds value on top of original service
- Aggregates multiple service combinations (e.g., on-premise to cloud, SaaS to on-premise, cloud to cloud)
- Provides data integration and management services between multiple cloud services and on-premise applications
- May or may not have a contractual relationship with service providers
Integration brokerages are becoming increasingly important to companies as they plan their strategy for tapping into more cloud services and data-as-a-service offerings. They remove the technical challenges of connecting to and managing multiple clouds and integrating and managing data between those services and with on-premise applications. This frees the IT department to focus on improving business processes to help achieve organizational business and growth goals.
This article includes excerpts from Cloud Services Brokerage for DUMMIES®.
About the Author: Chris Hale serves as Vice President of Global Product Marketing at Liaison Technologies (www.liaison.com), a global provider of cloud-based integration and data management services and solutions. A subject matter expert in Application Integration in the Cloud, Cloud Master Data Management (MDM), Data Transformation and B2B/EDI Integration Services, he was a contributor to the recently published e-book, “Cloud Services Brokerage for DUMMIES®”. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.