Tony Limby Issue: Europe I 2016
Article no.: 6
Topic: The dawn of ‘Cloud Brokers’
Author: Tony Limby
Title: Director, Cloud and Datacenter
Organisation: BT Business
PDF size: 443KB

About author

Tony Limby is Director, Cloud and Datacentre, at BT Business, where he is responsible for defining and delivering the IT Services Cloud and platforms roadmap for its IT Services division.

He has formerly held senior roles at Lynx Technology, Siemens, Sema Group and ComputerLand, and currently sits on the Interim Advisory Council for Cloud 28.

Article abstract

As an ever-increasing number of organisations start to consider the wider use of the cloud within their businesses, and start to move more critical applications away from on-premise infrastructure, they expect improvements in related areas of technology provision. That belief is particularly strong in the areas of resilience and functionality, where IT managers are aware that the security of online processes is crucial 

Full Article

The cloud market has matured to such an extent during the past few years that a tipping point has been reached. On-demand technology started the decade as an alternative means of service provision, but has quickly become one of the key routes for procuring IT services.

Such is the crucial role played by the cloud that as many as 57 per cent of IT executives believe on-demand technology is now critically important to the business, according to ZDNet and TechRepublic research .

On-demand applications and services, in short, have been adopted and accepted by businesses, and that rate of implementation is set to grow exponentially during the rest of the decade. So, why has there has been a rush by organisations to move IT on-demand?

One crucial explanation is that the cloud has transitioned from a theoretical and over-hyped concept to a practical business tool. IT directors and their senior business peers understand how external service provision can help transform the use of technology across the functions of an organisation.

More to the point, such managers are beginning to see real business benefits. The cloud provides a great fit with the modern objectives of many organisations, helping executives to both cut costs and increase agility. Most on-demand arrangements, after all, allow businesses to increase their use of IT resources as business demands dictate.

But the benefits are not just related to short-term objectives. The cloud can provide long-term plus-points, too. Closer integration with service suppliers means IT and business managers can benefit from the latest applications, without the capital outlay for hardware and software, and on-going maintenance.

Many organisations are only just beginning to see the first raft of benefits. Use of on-demand IT is often centred on commodity areas, including email hosting, and non-core areas of technology provision, such as testing and development.

Yet as business leaders begin to see the payback from a move to the cloud, they start to consider its relevance to other organisational processes. Our research suggests IT managers are also using the cloud for packaged enterprise apps and non-core areas of hardware, including storage back-up, virtual desktop infrastructure and disaster recovery.

As an ever-increasing number of organisations start to consider the wider use of the cloud within their businesses, and start to move more critical applications away from on-premise infrastructure, they expect improvements in related areas of technology provision. That belief is particularly strong in the areas of resilience and functionality, where IT managers are aware that the security of online processes is crucial.

A rise in the number of online interfaces can also produce a management challenge. IT leaders will increasingly have to draw on an ecosystem of providers, as the breadth of applications and services that are available through trusted partners via the cloud continues to rise.

Suppliers will need to help senior executives to overcome this challenge. Strong external service partners will alter the types of service they provide and the means through which they offer such technologies.

Rather than the constraints of a traditional licensing arrangement, smart suppliers will use flexibility as a watchword for quality, offering businesses exactly the kinds of services they need in the forms they choose to consume.

This new arrangement will definitely include flexibility in pricing, but will also draw upon an increased range of applications and services that customers can buy from their preferred supplier. A proper and effective cloud system represents a platform from which users in the enterprise can pick their tools on-demand.

For vendors, this change towards service flexibility could be seen as a threat. The standard means of procuring IT, which might rely on the purchase of an enterprise stack from a single supplier, is no longer workable in the age of the cloud.

We believe that, in the future, the key role of a trusted supplier will be as a ‘broker’ for cloud services. This specialist orchestrator will give customers the opportunities to source the breadth of services they require on-demand, but through the convenience of a single, expert supplier.

Modern executives, particularly those in charge of IT, are time poor and pressure heavy. They are expected to keep key systems up and running, while also sourcing innovations that can help transform the way a business operates and the means through which it serves its valued customers.

That’s where we believe suppliers can step in and help. A trusted, one-stop shop for cloud provision will take the weight off business and IT leaders. A great provider will manage the ecosystem of relationships, and provide the first line of support and management.

Smart provision in the age of the cloud doesn’t only extend to vendor management. We believe suppliers should help businesses to overcome contract complexity and to deliver cloud services integration. Such assimilation should ensure all vendor offerings, no matter how niche, are brought together under collective or single Service Level Agreements (SLA).

Our Global Services division recently announced a new generation of cloud services that allow larger organisations around the world to connect easily and securely to the applications and the data they need, independently of where they are hosted .

Badged as the ‘Cloud of Clouds’ strategy, this is exactly the kind of approach that we believe will allow businesses to take advantage of the move on-demand. The strategy will allow customers to bring together IT resources hosted in their own private clouds, as well as on our own cloud platforms and on the platforms of other leading cloud providers.

We work closely with our Global Services division, but have developed our own new platform to help our customers make the most of cloud-based applications. Flexibility really is the watchword for this platform, giving us the elasticity to bring new services online. Proof comes in the fact that we have launched ten new cloud-based products through the platform during the past year.

For us, the development for the cloud goes further still. We have created an ‘App Direct’ platform that allows us to provide a richer range of services to our customers. Key differentiators include the ability to back up a company’s entire system to the cloud. In the event of a worst-case scenario, we can use this back-up to get the customer up and running within 24 hours.

We believe a final, key element for successful brokers of cloud services is an awareness of the subtle nuances involved in service orchestration. It’s something we practice a daily basis. We have a single view of technology plans and investment across our organisation. Such orchestration means we can set priorities and source developments and innovations that will help boost the quality of our own technology, and the services we provide to our customers.

Take our ‘hunt teams’ programme, which use experts to monitor technology developments in key centres of excellence around the globe, such as Silicon Valley, Israel and Brussels. When our experts discover a potential innovation that will be useful to customers, we work with the vendors in these centres of excellence to ensure any product is of the highest possible quality and resilience. Once our exacting standards are satisfied, we bring the product online rapidly.

In the end, going on-demand should not be feared. Successful use of technology in the era of the cloud still involves the key tenet of technology management – IT managers must understand the requirements of business stakeholders and should then work with a trusted partner to ensure high quality services are delivered. Any partner must be reliable but they should hold the expertise to overcome complexity and to provide a full range of cloud-based services under a single contract, with a single SLA.

The days of going to a supplier and only being able to purchase a specialist application or service are drawing to a close. In the future, the success of vendors – and the businesses they serve – will be closely related to their ability to draw on and manage a wide range of cloud services from many different sources. For this reason, the ‘broker’ of cloud services will hold the key to t