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FCW : April 30, 2015
allotted 2 percent of their IT budgets for cloud services. Although those budgets are growing, auditors noted that “agencies are still devoting a large portion of their IT bud- gets to non-cloud computing expenditures.” So what’s hindering wider adoption? According to GAO, agencies have yet to assess the majority of their IT invest- ments for their suitability as cloud migration candidates. A lack of cloud-savvy employees represents another barrier. “Migrating legacy systems to cloud computing services requires knowledgeable acquisition staff and appropriate processes,” GAO’s report states, adding that HHS officials said they had the ability to purchase cloud services but “found post-award management to be a challenge.” Cloud brokers say they can address such obstacles. For instance, they can help agencies sort through their IT assets with an eye toward the cloud, said Mike O’Brien, director of the Cloud Solutions Group at Aquilent. Companies like his can “help the customer determine which workloads are ideally suited for which cloud environments,” he added. Brokers can also assist agencies as their cloud deploy- ments become more complicated and even span multiple cloud solutions. “We have seen a lot of customers that have part of an application sitting in a public cloud and part in an on- premise environment and another part in a different cloud because of security and compliance reasons,” O’Brien said. The fundamentals When the government began investigating the potential of cloud brokers four years ago, it needed to come up with a definition. The National Institute of Standards and Tech- nology made its first attempt in the 2011 Cloud Computing Reference Architecture, which describes a cloud broker as an organization that “manages the use, performance and delivery of cloud services, and negotiates relationships between cloud providers and cloud consumers.” In 2012, GSA issued a request for information to explore the broker model. The Defense Department went a step fur- ther that same year: Then-CIO Teresa Takai issued a memo designating the Defense Information Systems Agency as the DOD Enterprise Cloud Service Broker and directing all DOD components to “acquire cloud services by using the broker.” In the ensuing years, cloud developments have com- pelled the government to re-evaluate the broker’s purpose. NIST is in the process of refining its broker definition. Bob Bohn, NIST’s cloud computing technical program manager, said the draft update identifies two types of cloud brokers: business and technical. A business broker focuses on support functions such as contractual intermediation and billing. The service does not have any contact with the customer’s data or opera- tions in the cloud, and the broker never touches a machine. “All [the business broker has] to do is manage the rela- tionship,” Bohn said. The technical broker, in contrast, gets hands-on with the customer’s IT assets. Such brokers aggregate services provided by multiple cloud vendors and address any issues associated with the movement of data and applications among the services. “I think there is going to be a big role for the techni- cal cloud broker,” Bohn said. “They are dealing with lots of different providers in the background. Since they are doing that, they have to work at solving interoperability and portability issues.” Depending on a customer’s requirements, an organiza- tion could serve as a technical broker, a business broker or both. April 30, 2015 FCW.COM 25 EVENTS.OASIS-OPEN.ORGSHUTTERSTOCK “I think there is going to be a big role for the technical cloud broker. They are dealing with lots of different providers in the background. Since they are doing that, they have to work at solving interoperability and portability issues.” BOB BOHN, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY 0430fcw_024-026.indd 25 4/7/15 11:53 AM
April 15, 2015
May 15, 2015