Cloud Services Brokerages Challenge Traditional IT Service Providers for Cloud Services Delivery
There is confusion about why the term “cloud services brokerage” is needed when traditional IT services firms already embrace an array of cloud services. We examine why we need the term “cloud services brokerage” in cloud computing and the broader traditional IT services market.
Tiffani Bova | Daryl C. Plummer
Published: 1 May 2012 ID:G00233235
- Cloud services brokerage (CSB) defines a role and key value propositions for new cloud-enabled IT services offerings that the market is demanding.
- CSBs have cloud at the center of their solutions and business models, whereas traditional IT services providers are transforming and transitioning their portfolios to include cloud services. CSBs won’t likely offer traditional application and infrastructure services without the presence of at least one cloud service.
- Many traditional IT services providers are struggling to define their path in cloud services, as they face challenges in delivery, growth and profitability, without undoing their core business, which has been immensely successful and profitable.
- CSBs do not eliminate the roles that IT services providers have played and will continue to play in the market. Instead, CSBs are focused on providing seamless and flexible access to multiple cloud services (many of which may reduce costs or complexity around consuming multiple cloud services). CSBs will introduce more competition and place more pressure on existing, and sometimes incumbent, providers to reduce scope, scale and complexity in their offerings.
- Understanding the value that a CSB provides by consuming multiple cloud services gives internal IT leaders who are driving cloud adoption a focused way to understand what they should be focused on. Also, it gives traditional IT services providers guidance on which IT service roles will be most affected by cloud.
- Many traditional IT services providers are pursuing cloud services as new offerings; however, these are not the same roles that will drive the growth of a composite CSB market. A CSB plays a specific role within the cloud services value chain and is not required in all instances.
- Sourcing, vendor managers and CIOs: If cloud services are the center of a desired solution, then use the CSB select/evaluation criteria versus the traditional IT services criteria (see “Essential Provider Selection Criteria to Use When Outsourcing the CSB Role”), because the CSB attributes address a different set of requirements.
- When planning your overall cloud strategy, taking into consideration the most effective and efficient acquisition and support model should include the option of leveraging a CSB, especially if you plan to consume more than three different cloud services.
- Develop internal IT skills that are focused on business process management and how a cohesive hybrid IT environment can deliver expected business results.
CSB is a term that describes the market, model and role that support the intermediation between cloud services and cloud consumers. This intermediation, and a definition of the term, is described in detail in “Cloud Services Brokerage is Dominated by Three Primary Roles.” Also brokerage, as a business component, emerges whenever a service provider-service consumer model is established (see “The Role of CSB in the Cloud Services Value Chain”). Stock brokers, real-estate brokers, travel brokers and third-party advisory/intermediary firms represent simple and well-known examples of a brokerage. The existence of brokerage models is not in question. However, the issue arises in the IT sector, when trying to compare the brokerage models with traditional IT service models. This research examines the reasons that “brokerage” as a term and a concept in cloud computing is necessary and useful. It will allow us to distinguish when traditional IT service language and approaches are good enough versus when cloud services brokerage language is more appropriate (see Note 2). This research offers traditional IT services providers and end-user organizations guidance on how new CSBs will position themselves in the market to differentiate from the traditional IT services provider.
IT Services Were Here First
One complaint that brokerage naysayers advocate is that the language of brokerage (e.g., aggregation brokerage, integration brokerage and customization brokerage) is already covered by traditional roles such as technology aggregator, solutions aggregator, system integrator (SI), independent software vendor (ISV) or distributor. They argue that there is no need for new terminology to describe what is already being done by these providers. Some traditional aggregators even go so far as to say they do not like the term “broker” because it minimizes their value into something that can be quickly commoditized. We respectfully suggest that traditional language is not always appropriate when applied to cloud-based solutions (see Note 1). The differences in the cloud model identify significant differences in how aggregation, integration and so forth must be done to deliver on the cloud computing value proposition of agility, efficiency, new capabilities and reduced cost. Traditional IT services providers often have access to, and can make direct changes to, specific technologies, which is not necessarily true in cloud delivered services (such as software as a service [SaaS], platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, and business process as a service).
Because cloud providers do not generally allow a third party to have general access to all back-end systems, code, technologies, or even visibility into how the service is built or architected, the ability to have (implementation or integration) control, is severely limited. This represents a major difference, for example, in how one must approach integration in the cloud versus on-premises, custom-built implementations.
We Must Use More-Effective Terms When Describing Changes to Markets
In the cloud brokerage world, the new terminology is intended specifically to introduce the concept of three or more independent parties (provider, consumer and broker) working together, where no one of them has complete control over the actions of the others. Brokers intermediate rather than control; Traditional SIs, ISVs and aggregators control more often than intermediate. In the cloud, intermediation is more about coordinating the inputs and outputs of multiple services, rather than about controlling how their technology is implemented. This highlights the core difference. Using the traditional IT services language can imply that a certain level of technology control or assurance is available in the cloud when it is not. Neither the integration brokerage nor the consumer controls the technologies or the business workings of the original cloud service providers whose services are being integrated. In this way, cloud brokerages are responsible and must manage the risk of failure, low service quality, inadequate security assurance, and liability between providers and consumers — all through a relationship in which the brokerage is the customers’ single point-of-contact for multiple cloud services, even where they have little control over certain outcomes.
However, at no point does Gartner suggest that cloud services brokerage should replace traditional IT services or minimize them. Instead, we offer CSB as a set of roles (within a composite CSB market and using CSB models) that can be adopted by traditional IT services companies whenever they need to add additional value to cloud services on behalf of their customers (such as hybrid cloud solutions, or integrated cloud services). For example, the SI role and the CSB aggregation role are not the same, but they represent complementary approaches to solving customer problems in managing products or services from multiple providers. A CSB must interact with at least one or more cloud service, otherwise the term is inappropriate and the CSB would continue to be considered a traditional IT services provider because it was providing integration services.
Also, other differences are worth noting. Gartner has identified six key differences that make CSB something more and less than traditional IT services.
No. 1: The Buyers Can Be Different
Cloud brokerages will have buyers ranging from individual consumers to small or midsize businesses (SMBs) and large enterprises. This range of buyers is seldom served by traditional IT services providers exclusively.
No. 2: The Cloud Brokerage Cannot Modify the Actual Service Implementation or Own the Technology
In traditional IT service scenarios, the SI usually has access to, and sometimes complete control over, the technology within the provider solutions that they are delivering. The potential removal of that control places different burdens on the integration brokerage, which has to integrate or aggregate services it has little ability to change.
No. 3: The Technology Used for Integration, Customization and Management Can Be Different as Can the Integration Scenarios
CSBs may use different technology than the traditional system integrators employ to deliver solutions to their customers. These technologies not only require different skills to use, they apply to different kinds of integration scenarios. Federation, API management, governance (for policy management and enforcement), and offline asynchronous access are among the simple differences. Cloud brokerage technologies for integration and governance in shared multitenant environments account for more than half of the difficulty in integrating cloud services, as opposed to on-premises technologies.
No. 4: The Contract Is Managed Differently
Although the relationship management side of purchasing cloud services will remain relatively the same as traditional IT purchases, the CSB model will lessen the need for high-touch, high-trust relationship-intensive models when it comes to contracting with all the individual cloud service providers that customers choose to work with.
Cloud contracts will typically involve multiple companies that are given assurances only through the contract that may rely on outcomes to manage. In other words, a cloud integration brokerage must integrate services where the only guarantee of performance or availability is through the established SLA agreed on in the customer contract or the brokerage agreement.
Although this happens at times in traditional technology integration, in the cloud, the added restrictions makes it much more difficult to get detailed information about the system underlying the services being integrated, which can cause significant risk for CSBs.
Establishing who is to blame for a problem is an extraordinary challenge for customers and brokerages alike. It is critical that CSBs keep their focus on demand/experience fulfillment, and responsiveness to incidents/issues to ensure that the relationship is consistently supported by a positive experience.
No. 5: The Channel for Cloud Brokerage May Be Widely Different Than Those Established for Traditional System Integrators
Selling through and with other channels adds a layer of complexity to the CSB role. Determining the best way to market will drive increased adoption. However, in the cloud service value chain, the suppliers and distributors will often be new entrants to the market with relatively unknown capabilities and brands.
No. 6: There Are New Cloud Specialists
This may be the most important reason for having new terminology. New cloud specialists that do brokerage, integration, customization and aggregation do not necessarily come from the traditional IT services world and do not associate themselves with it (see “Who’s Who in Cloud Service Brokerage”). They approach customers with different marketing messages. They have different technical and business-related skills, establish new value propositions, generally have well-established partner ecosystems dominated by third-party cloud-native IT providers, demand new types of relationships (with providers and customers) based on cloud-centric innovation and business models, and use new technologies and integration scenarios to provide cloud-based solutions.
Cloud computing is moving fast (“Forecast: Public Cloud Services, Worldwide and Regions, Industry Sectors, 2010-2015, 2011 Update”). The influx of new cloud specialists is helping in the adoption, however there is still a significant skill gap for providers that have cloud experience and internal domain expertise for implementing and integrating multiple cloud services (see “Cloud Adoption at Risk Without Big Channel Investments”) broadly across the market.
Gartner predicts that the number of CSBs that will go for scale and large market reach will be in the hundreds worldwide, and include communications services providers, IT wholesale distributors, retailers and large direct market resellers (to name a few) because they have the existing customer relationships with a majority of the SMB market and are pushing for greater relevance in cloud. This is not to say that others won’t become CSBs, which are more locally focused on vertical markets or segments and keep their offerings to a tightly managed set of services.
Companies taking on the CSB role are expected to handle certain scenarios that would previously have primarily been the domain only he traditional IT services providers. This suggests that there is some urgency to either capture market share in the cloud for those original providers before new companies do it, or that traditional providers will likely acquire the new cloud specialists that are brokerages, to fill out their cloud portfolio. One other option is that companies need to do it before the original cloud service providers acquire new cloud specialists to fill out their new cloud channel ecosystem.
The relationship between CSBs and other types of IT services sourcing and delivery models can be confusing. In particular, the question is often asked: What is the difference between CSBs and traditional IT services offerings?
For clients who have followed Gartner’s cloud research, certainly both terms include similar concepts, since brokerage deals with aggregation, integration, custom development, or even governance/management of cloud services are also attributes of traditional IT services providers’ offerings.
The answer for IT providers and buyers of cloud services lies in examining what is different enough about cloud computing to warrant the CSB term. Service providers need a mental framework for deciding how to migrate services to the cloud, while consumers of cloud services would benefit from the same mental framework to be used in helping them decide how to pick the right cloud brokerage providers.
Please not that the above text is not a complete version of the research note most of the six key differences have been edited.
Cloud Service Model
Key difference No.4 – The Contract Is Managed Differently
The traditional approach to managed services is to create a thin retained layer or carve out responsibility to the procurement capability for oversight and governance of the Service Provider.
With the Cloud new Service Delivery models will evolve and the role of the Cloud Service Broker will be to stitch the end-to-end service value chain together. The complication with these new ways of working is that the CSB has limited control of the service provided to the Business.
I do not agree with Tiffani / Daryl that the answer lies in a Service Level Agreement with defined penalties. This will not enable the CSB to provide predictable service levels.
What is required is a refresh of the way that Service Management Practices will enable the Business, Retained IT and the CSB to review Business Outcomes instead of service metrics and process measures.
For example – the cloud enables elasticity and can provide capacity on demand to process a significant volume of invoices during peak periods where previously they may have been stuck in the system or a backlog built up.
For me, a Cloud Service Model means that utility / warranty (defined in the ITIL 2011 Edition Service Strategy core volume) is delivered from a “Black Box” so rather than focus on managing the CSB the Service Management role will need to become a hybrid manager and focus on enabling Business Change.
Most service organisations already have a Business Relationship Manager role, however these individuals will need to shift their attention away from just Portfolio and Demand Management more towards presenting options to the Business that demonstrate how the Cloud platform can bring new solutions to the table.
Innovative Cloud Solutions
The cloud enables you to think beyond the traditional
You have to make cloud transformative for your Business
If you’re not thinking out of the box you are not really thinking about the cloud in the right way
You are not doing the things that the cloud makes possible