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With cloud dominating many IT conversations these days (although that’s rapidly being superseded by IoT, and of late AI), you may have encountered the phrase ‘cloud services brokerage’, or ‘CSB’ on more than one occasion.

As a brief refresher for those who are unacquainted with CSBs, these usually take the form of third-party companies which add value to cloud services on behalf of cloud service consumers, a role which has taken on major importance as the market has shifted almost wholesale to cloud.

Daryl Plummer of Gartner writes for Forbes, that a CSB’s goal “is to make the service more specific to a company, or to integrate or aggregate services, to enhance their security, or to do anything which adds a significant layer of value (i.e. capabilities) to the original cloud services being offered.”

Essentially, CSB’s are able to take on much of the burden of cloud migration, which can be a confusing and problematic task for naive businesses unaccustomed to the bewildering array of cloud service providers, services offered and payment methods available.

A viable CSB provider can make it less expensive, easier, safer and more productive for companies to navigate, integrate, consume and extend cloud services.

As Plummer states: “Instead of spending time and money to address these problems internally, consumers can leverage solutions offered by CSBs that allow organizations to focus on other pressing business needs. A viable CSB provider can make it less expensive, easier, safer and more productive for companies to navigate, integrate, consume and extend cloud services, particularly when they span multiple, diverse cloud services providers.”

Needless to say, there is a significant amount of trust needed by companies in their dealings with their CSB. As cloud becomes increasingly dominant, and entire industries seemingly shifting en-masse to cloud platforms, the role takes on ever-increasing strategic importance. Businesses need to trust that their CSB will correctly advise them to use the right cloud resources, for the right requirement, at the right time.

One of the advantages of a cloud service brokerage is that a cloud broker can combine the buying power of multiple enterprises, negotiating better prices for its clients while delivering more customers to the provider. “When a broker is doing work for hundreds of customers, they can aggregate pricing, and lower prices usually mean more business for the cloud provider” says Plummer.

A CSB aggregates cloud services from multiple vendors, with resulting cost and efficiency benefits.

A multi-cloud approach seems to be leading the way in adoption so far. Richard Vester, EOH divisional director of Cloud Services writes on South African portal ITWeb that “77% of businesses are planning to implement multi-cloud architectures in the near future.”

This makes intuitive sense. According to Vester, a multi-cloud approach gives businesses “the ability to leverage the most suitable unique cloud-services from a plethora of different providers whenever the business chooses to. This not only enables businesses to remain innovative and dynamic, but allows them to lower expenses and tailor each cloud to one that best meets the business’ needs.”

Security is another increasingly important area where a CSB can use its expertise to shore up vulnerabilities which may exist when a business attempts to go it alone. As security becomes a greater challenge and priority for businesses, the move to cloud can provide a new threat to companies not quite up to speed in that regard. A CSB’s expertise in advising on, implementing and maintaining cloud security can play an important role in managing that risk. 

A CSB’s expertise in advising on, implementing and maintaining cloud security can play an important role in managing the business cloud security risk. 

In the end, it’s probably fair to say that most business are seeking greater speed and agility as their cloud migration goal. There’s no doubt that cloud services can meet those requirements very well, but challenges with security, integration and complexity need to be managed carefully, and this is where the cloud services brokerage can really add value.

By contrast, some companies may even begin to evolve their IT departments to become a broker for cloud services. Plummer sees it as a natural evolution. “As IT staff loses systems and software to manage, brokerage becomes the natural evolution for their role in the organization” he writes. Existing IT staff would certainly need to take a proactive approach to learning new cloud skills and migration methodologies, but they should at least have a great working knowledge of internal company systems and procedures.

In the end, whether choosing to outsource to a CSB or evolve an existing IT department to implement and run cloud migration, it’s comforting for businesses to know that options exist for those willing to make a leap into the dynamic cloud environment.

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