Most dictionaries define a broker as an agent who acts as an intermediary in the purchase or sale of a commodity, or a person or entity distributing something tangible.
Cloud service brokers (CSBs) work much the same way in that they work as an intermediary between a customer and a cloud service provider. There are many reasons why a company would choose to work with a CSB, but the main benefit is the management of provider services for customers who lack the time or resources to utilize cloud services to best meet the organization’s business needs.
With up to 96 percent of enterprise survey respondents indicating they use some form of multi-cloud or hybrid cloud service, there is a clear need to understand the role CSBs play in today’s business landscape and whether their services make fiscal sense and improve operational capabilities.
The Benefits of Cloud Service Brokers
As brokers of cloud services, CSBs facilitate positive relationships between enterprise customers and cloud providers. The relationship between a CSB and client is symbiotic. Since good cloud service brokers often work with hundreds of customers, they are able to negotiate better prices for the customer, and in turn, drive more business to the cloud provider.
Key factors in the way cloud service brokers provide value to their customers are in customization, integration, and aggregation of services.
The primary benefit to customers with aggregation is that the CSB can often arrange for the bundling of individual services together to leverage the cloud provider’s overall product offerings.
Oftentimes, an organization or enterprise client does not have the resources to integrate their network with a cloud provider’s network and move their data. A cloud service broker can seamlessly provide that service as part of its agreement with the provider.
The one-size-fits-all mantra of some companies does not typically suit users of cloud services, mainly because of the differences in the way organizations adhere to work flows and shifting demands for applications’ functionality based on customer demand. This is an area where a CSB can facilitate customization of cloud provider services, specifically based on when and where client demands dictate they are needed most.
Overcome the Challenges of Cloud Management
While the benefits of using the cloud vastly outweigh the negatives, enterprise and other organizations using still face challenges. CSBs act as a necessary liaison to help mitigate some of the most common.
Controlling cloud sprawl is one such challenge faced by enterprise today, and one instance where a good CSB comes in handy. Cloud sprawl occurs when organizations lose sight or control of the number of cloud apps, services, and/or providers it currently uses.
Consider that the average company uses at least 14 cloud apps and more than 60 percent of employees use cloud file sharing to store critical data. Those practices introduce higher risk and more complexity for the organization to manage.
CSBs offer or facilitate the use of managed services across unified hybrid and multi-cloud delivery options, offering more security, compliance management, agility, and cost-effectiveness that might otherwise be lost with uncontrolled cloud sprawl.
A recent IT industry survey revealed that about 40 percent of all IT spending occurs outside of the company IT department. This trend is driven in part by the growth of consumer cloud apps, such as those enabling social media, file sharing, and other collaborative tools, including enterprise-class SaaS applications.
Known as shadow IT, the problem with this trend is that even though apps such as Office 365 reduce IT workloads and facilitate employee productivity, they also introduce security and compliance issues. These issues arise because many of these solutions are deployed by departments outside of IT and without official approval.
A cloud service broker can mitigate security and compliance concerns by monitoring and identifying which employees are using clouds apps at any given time, aggregating them, and governing their usage.
CSBs provide customer benefits in the form of provisioning and access, managing billing, and promoting security by centralizing resources and allocating them to users as needed, as opposed to an uncontrolled delivery model.
Organizations benefit from cost savings and scalability when cloud services are provided based on users paying only for what service they consume—meaning they can scale resources up or down, based on operational needs—rather than a flat fee model, where resources are wasted because they may be used infrequently or not at all, but are still paid for.
Organizations should consider using a cloud service broker if they rely on a large number of cloud providers, would rather focus on business objectives than IT development, and seek to use operational funding for IT functions instead of having to make large capital investments to keep pace with delivery of resources to their customers, compliance, and ever-changing security threats.