From the Founder & VP Products at CloudSwitch

Ellen Rubin

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Cloud Computing Journal

The cloud computing landscape is evolving rapidly, with more and more players introducing cloud products and services of all kinds. Most recently we’ve seen the announcements by VMware partners including Terremark, BlueLock and others, as well as the introduction of Rackspace’s Cloud Servers. EMC is planning to offer a compute cloud in addition to its existing Atmos storage cloud. As the proliferation of offerings continues to accelerate, IT managers have questions about how to proceed: How can you evaluate the range of potential cloud offerings to find the right match? How do you route an application or workload to a target cloud and make sure that it works? How do you integrate it with other applications running back in the data center?

Cloud Brokers
As Gartner Group points out, getting the most out of the cloud will ultimately require the assistance of a knowledgeable and reliable expert: the cloud service broker. Cloud blogger John Willis feels strongly as well about the importance of this emerging category. Even within a single cloud, deploying an application requires learning the provider’s operating environment, management tools and business terms and conditions. Doing this for every cloud provider you may wish to utilize is likely to prove daunting and not cost-effective. In a cloud environment characterized by multiple providers, each with its own service terms, operating platforms, management systems, security levels and disaster recovery approaches, the specialized expertise and value-add of a cloud service broker will help IT managers find the right cloud offering, deploy their application in the cloud and manage it properly.

Effective cloud management will not only require technical expertise but also the business savvy and leverage necessary to negotiate the best deals and relationships between cloud consumers and cloud providers. This specialized knowledge, as well as access to the latest cloud management tools and services, will make the cloud broker a strategic partner for companies that want to use the cloud (broadly defined) to full advantage — especially as a wave of new cloud services come to market and the environment becomes still more heterogeneous.

Going Dynamic
Within the next few years, the cloud will become a much more dynamic environment, with the cloud broker playing a leading role. In the early adoption phase, enterprises will still want to “fit” their computing needs to a cloud manually. But over time, at least some cloud applications will be managed using an automated, rules-based approach, both for initial deployment and also for periodically reviewing performance and evaluating alternatives. For example, when the cost of running an application reaches a certain threshold, other cloud options will be evaluated automatically. If a more attractive offering meets established policies, the changeover can occur in real time.

The benefits of this dynamic cloud fitting will soon become apparent, whereby cloud service brokers use specialized tools to identify the most appropriate cloud resource, and then map the requirements of an enterprise application to it. Cloud service brokers will be able to automatically route data, applications and infrastructure needs based on key criteria such as price, location, latency needs, SLA level, supported operating systems, cloud scalability, backup/disaster recovery capabilities and regulatory requirements. IT managers will be able to run applications where they truly belong, while the broker takes care of the underlying details that make the cloud so compelling.

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More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, an enterprise storage company that recently raised $27 million in a Series B investment round. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to- market efforts for fast-growing companies. Most recently, she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company, acquired by Verizon in 2011. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was the vice president of marketing at Netezza, where as a member of the early management team, she helped grow the company to more than $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard University.