Beware Cloud Brokerages

Yesterday, in a moment of weakness, I managed to sit through most of a Gartner Webinar on Cloud brokerages (I know, what was I thinking?) We’re researching cloud brokerages for a client so I figured I should at least get some idea what Gartner says about them.

The Webinar discussed three types of Cloud brokerage: aggregation, customization, and integration brokerages. An aggregation Cloud brokerage follows a distribution model: think a Web site where you can pick a Cloud provider off the list (either manually or automatically), and the brokerage takes a cut of every deal. This type of brokerage makes sense technically and from a business perspective, but isn’t really very different from any kind of technical services brokerage. We saw the same kind of arrangement ten years ago with a crop of Web Services brokerages.

A customization brokerage follows an ISV (independent software vendor) model: vendors build some kind of value-add offering and call it a Cloud brokerage. I’m unclear on what Gartner meant by this type of brokerage. My guess is that since the ISVs pay Gartner’s bills, they had to throw them a bone.

The third type of brokerage is the integration brokerage. The Webinar focused on this type because the Gartner client who sponsored the Webinar wanted to promote something in this category. The idea of an integration brokerage is a third-party integration hub that can provide B2B integration that connects your Cloud-based apps with other Cloud-based apps.

At this point in the Webinar I experienced a shudder of déjà vu. I had heard this same story before, several times in fact. Remember EDI VANs from, oh, the mid to late 1990s? (Those are Electronic Data Interchange Value-Added Networks for you jargon freaks out there). What’s an EDI VAN, you might ask? A third-party integration hub that can provide B2B integration…. Hey, wait a minute!

And let us not forget the eMarketplaces from the turn of the millennium. Remember those? They were, let’s see, third-party integration hub that can provide B2B integration. Hmmm….

And now we have Integration-as-a-Service players (the other IaaS, if you will). What do they do? You got it, third-party integration hubs… You get the picture.

And now, integration Cloud brokerages? How many times do we have to go down this road, anyway?

Don’t get me wrong. There are some nascent Cloud brokerages out there focusing on data synchronization as well as workload portability: one Cloud provider goes down (or is simply no longer the least expensive) and the broker automatically moves your workloads to another — providing failover, cross-provider redundancy, and arbitrage. Problem is, Cloud portability standards are still in the works, so cross-provider portability is still vaporware.

But whatever you do, don’t confuse the portability-based Cloud brokers of the future with the warmed-over EDI VANs of today, regardless of what Gartner says.

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