Time has been shrinking for the past 20 years. In the ‘80s it would take us two to three months to get a new phone line. Today, if we can’t place a call from a new phone before we leave the shop we’re outraged. In our instantaneous world we expect everything here and now.
It’s no different for enterprises. The time to react has been reduced, and the volatility of the current economic climate doesn’t help. Plus, in an increasingly global marketplace, opportunities appear and disappear all the time. Success lies in the hands of the person who can react quickly.
Information technology (IT) used to be an environment in which craftsmen created and managed infrastructure and applications at their own pace. But today, businesses are pressing for change. They need to react quickly. And they need to be able to go to IT and get the support they want to address the opportunities they see. And they expect that support here and now.
IT personnel can no longer work as craftsmen. This manifests itself in two areas; the cloud enablement of the datacenter (through virtualization and automation), and the sourcing of an ever-increasing amount of third-party services.
In this new, reactive, real-time world, one size no longer fits all. IT departments are combining their traditional environment and private cloud with services they source externally, albeit IaaS, PaaS and/or SaaS. In doing so, the IT department is becoming a strategic service broker.
Let’s look at this from a user’s perspective. They are functioning in a hybrid environment. Some of the features they use every day are provided in their traditional environment, in the enterprise private cloud, and from a list of service providers. They need to access a variety of environments to do their job. This means they are juggling multiple URLs, multiple user names and passwords, multiple provisioning procedures, and on and on. It’s rather cumbersome, isn’t it? And I’m not even talking about changing suppliers, moving workloads or upgrading services.
A unique user experience
What IT really needs to do is shield users from the complexity of sourcing a service. As a user, what I want is to have one web page where I can authenticate myself, see the services I use (regardless of their source), and decide which service I want to access. What I need is front-end functionality that allows me to access the right services from the right place. Fundamentally this is what is being called a “cloud broker.” Charlie Bess describes this in length. Arthur Cole speaks about the rise of the cloud broker. Traditionally, cloud brokers are presented as a service, provided by a specific company, addressing multiple cloud offerings.
But I’m proposing something different. I envision developing a front-end that integrates cloud services and hybrid environments specifically for an enterprise. Think of it as the next phase of the intranet portal. I call it the Enterprise Cloud Broker.
Five key components of the Enterprise Cloud Broker
To me, the Enterprise Cloud Broker consists of five key components. Here’s how they work together:
- A portal through which the user connects with the services he is allowed to consume.
This is where I authenticate myself. My credentials are compared with the enterprise directory, and I see the services I have already provisioned, so I can access the service I need. I no longer need to know where the service is sourced. Because there is a single sign-on, I don’t have to remember specific credentials to access specific services. (Say “So long!” to that cheat sheet of user names and passwords.)
- A service catalog containing all the services provided by IT, classified by role.
Once I am authenticated, the system knows my role, and highlights the services I’m eligible to procure. I can get a description of services, their costs (if any) and other information. I can now decide what service I need and initiate the provisioning process.
- An approval process.
Many companies require approvals to procure services. Once I have requested the provisioning of a specific service, the system routes my request according to the policies set forth by the enterprise. When the approval is confirmed, the provisioning is initiated from the appropriate cloud environment.
- An Orchestrator.
A couple of weeks ago I described the concepts of intermediation and aggregation. Orchestration can be simple, or complex. If the Enterprise Cloud Broker only intermediates services, the orchestration is easy—request the provisioning by the appropriate service provider and ensure the service is provisioned before granting the user access. If aggregated services are provided, orchestration is more complex. In this case, the orchestrator must first check whether all the services can be provisioned, then needs to do the provisioning, link all the services together, and ensure end-to-end security. Last but not least, the orchestrator needs to set up and capture billing information for all components.
- A Billing/SLA monitoring function.
As a service is consumed, the Enterprise Cloud Broker will receive consumption information from the service provider, which serves as a basis for billing. In the case of aggregation, the Enterprise Cloud Broker may want to meter consumption and bill accordingly. Or, depending on the service, the Enterprise Cloud Broker will receive billing information for each of the components from various service providers. The other function here is service level agreement monitoring. In the case of aggregation, the service level of the composite service needs to be measured, and the initiator may need to be tracked.
The broker orchestrator becomes the “über-orchestrator” steering the orchestration availability in each of the clouds where services are sourced. I’ll come back to this concept in a future blog post as it’s worth a more detailed discussion.
Integrating the traditional environment
Web services can be used to shield the traditional environment from the end-user, and allow access to the legacy functionality with a similar approach as cloud-based services. Integrating both the cloud and legacy environment using the same user experience shields the end-user from the complexity of IT—making it easy for them to use the best service for their needs, rather than the most popular. Integration also allows the IT department to regain control over “shadow-IT.”
But it also does something else: It allows IT to transform the way services are consumed, maximizing the convenience for the end-user. If IT decides to migrate an application from the traditional world to the cloud world, this can now happen “behind the scenes.”
A new window into the cloud
The Enterprise Cloud Broker is the window into the cloud. It provides the end-user a simple environment to consume the services they need, shields them from the complexity of IT, and allows IT to manage the sourcing and migration of services for optimal use. Current cloud brokers focus on the delivery of a portfolio of public services. As such, they are different from the Enterprise Cloud Broker.
The Enterprise Cloud Broker is central to HP’s converged cloud vision—providing a unique user experience. A here and now user experience. How do you envision embedding cloud functionality into your enterprise? Have you been looking at such functionality? Let me know what you think.