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Cloud Brokers – Cloud Sommeliers

If you love wine, you know about making decisions. Narrowing down. Red, white or sparkling? California, Italian or French? Ahh, monsieur prefers Bordeaux? Medoc or St. Emilion? Chateau Figeac ou Clous Fourtet? Le 2001 ou 2005? What goes best with duck? How about the house wine? Where is that Sommelier?

Cloud options are like that too – variety, quality, flexibility, and impacts on existing systems. A dilemma for informed choice. Businesses are pushed to keep up – to gain advantage while controlling budgets. Organizations are hunting for ways to decide what works best for their environment while avoiding cloud chaos. But it’s seldom as easy as opting for the house wine.

the still life with red wine, bottle, glass and old barrelCloud IT means foundational changes. New mindsets accommodate cloud realities but take account of what already exists. The before-and-after realities for each enterprise will be different.

IT jobs are more likely to be changed than eliminated. Required skills and competencies are more likely to cross traditional silo boundaries. Take the example of a current job posting at Microsoft for a Cloud Solution Architect. Required experience includes management, consulting, sales, applications development, cloud infrastructure, migrations, and proficiency in eight different programing languages. How many individuals will already envelop that experience? How long would it take a new hire to get there?

Of course there are a few people with the very well rounded IT and business background that will immediately fit and advance quickly. Others will need time and training to become credible and proficient. Long-term, cloud success will mean knowing about a bunch of different things. It’s a big change from the legacy silos most IT organizations have operated for years.

Changes mean that, within the promise, there are also risks in cloud computing – real and perceived. There’s potential for a new sort of IT sprawl. And potential for failure. So how to deal with risks, transitions and governance of cloud environments means managing a way that avoids serious disruption, but still takes advantage of cloud innovation. It will take education and experience to gain expected value, manage risk and still get innovation.

Enter the Sommelier, the Cloud Broker. We’re seeing IT executives increasingly rely on broker services to assist in making the choices and transitions. Some brokers represent individual service providers, some are independent brokers, and some are positions or teams established within an enterprise with authority and resources to provide cloud guidance. They help to establish and enforce standards and policies. They help make service and provider choices and may govern service access and budgets or help choose alternatives when providers don’t meet promised service levels.

A cloud administrator/ broker blends some long standing IT responsibilities with an understanding of alternative options in the marketplace. Gartner calls them “Cloud Service Brokers” (CSB) and suggests that businesses model them after similar roles created by External Service Providers (ESP). Their essential function is to help an enterprise connect the dots, to become the trusted advisor and knowledgeable resource at the intersection of internal and external possibilities.

The broker services bring the experience that helps with both technical and people problems – from job descriptions, to culture, metrics, controls and process. They’ll help put the right people together to collaborate. They’ll guide operations and applications people to talk the same language. They’ll assist with cloud strategy and orchestrate implementation.

The most critical role of brokers is advising on appropriate cloud choices. Which existing applications are appropriate to move? Which should be cloud-built? How about a pilot project for proof-of-concept? How can you assemble, integrate and optimize cloud services that benefit your specific objectives? What are potential impacts of both internal and external cloud services? What preparations are required?

The brokers are positioned to aggregate, integrate and customize cloud services. They manage a service catalog that provides a user community with cloud resources and saves multiple individual marketplace inquiries/comparisons and disparate practices – including those that put corporate data at risk.

They help you make the most appropriate choices.

They know what goes well with the duck.

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