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The emergence of the ‘cloud broker’

The cloud market has matured, and we’re now at a point where the rate of adoption of cloud-based or on-demand applications and services is set to grow exponentially.

Research shows that annual global cloud IP traffic will reach 6.5 zettabytes by the end of 2018, with more than four-fifths (86 per cent) of workloads processed by cloud data centres by 2019.

The reason for this is that cloud is something tangible for business decision makers, not just a term coined by the technology community. They now understand what the technology is, how it can fit with their business and objectives and the benefits it will bring – whether that’s in cost savings, capital outlay and management costs, or the flexibility it offers.

As you’d expect, as part of this move to the cloud, customers expect more in terms of resilience and functionality, but they also want a breadth of applications and services from trusted partners.

This means suppliers must change what they provide and how they provide it, to offer exactly what businesses need in the form that they choose to consume or use it.

For some, this means a shift in mindset for vendors, as it means flexibility in pricing, but also an increased range of applications and services that customers can buy from them. It’s no longer realistic to just supply a single element of IT; customers expect be able to buy multiple elements from a single trusted provider.

As a result, we increasingly see our role as one of a ‘broker’ for cloud services, allowing customers to get exactly what they need – and that’s what we’re being asked for: to manage the relationships and provide first line support and management, taking the pressure off their procurement, finance and IT teams.

In addition to managing the relationships with multiple vendors or service providers, which we’ve been doing for decades, our role is now more complex – especially with our larger customers. Our role is evolving to manage multiple hybrid cloud environments and to deliver cloud services integration, which seamlessly incorporate our own and others’ more niche offerings under collective or single Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Our Global Services division recently announced a new generation of cloud services that allows 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, it will allow customers to integrate IT resources and applications hosted in their own private clouds as well as on BT’s cloud platforms and on the platforms of other leading cloud providers.

We work closely with BT Global Services, but our customers have differing requirements. And, while we offer similar services, we have developed our own new platform to help deliver the applications and services our customer base needs.

This new platform gives us much more flexibility to bring new cloud services online and, just as an example, has allowed us to launch ten new cloud-based products in the course of the last 12 months.

One key element to being a successful broker of cloud services is understanding that this is our role. It may sound simplistic, but we have a single view of technology plans and investment across BT Business, which allows us to prioritise technology development, where applicable, and look for partners that have the services our customers need. Part of this is our ‘hunt teams’ programme, which means we have people in Silicon Valley, Israel and Brussels monitoring developments in these ‘tech centres’.

As with any technology decision, companies need to understand their full requirements, and then work with a partner to ensure they implement the technology they need. That partner needs to be trusted and reliable, but equally important is the ability to be able to offer a full range of cloud-based services under a single contract, with a single SLA.

In the same way as you wouldn’t go into a supermarket and expect to only be able to buy own brand products, IT decision makers increasingly expect to be able to buy the full range of cloud services from their preferred suppliers. As a result, the concept of ‘cloud brokers’ is set to grow in line with the adoption of cloud applications and services.

Tony Limby, Director, Cloud & Datacentre, IT Services, BT Business

Image Credit: Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock