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What's the difference between hybrid cloud infrastructure and cloud brokering?


By: Eric J. Bruno


Currently, there are two certainties when it comes to cloud infrastructure. First, there's a lot of hype around cloud, with vendors racing to build market share in the rising technology. Second, there's still an enormous amount of confusion around cloud, especially as things continue to get more complicated. Cloud brokering is part of this conundrum.


cloud brokerFor instance, hybrid cloud infrastructure is still a gray area. Let's clarify a few definitions before we get to the next point of confusion:

  1. First, the public cloud is mostly as its name implies, with cloud resources made available publicly by a cloud vendor or service provider. These resources are accessible to anyone deploying their applications or services globally, with the infrastructure and storage shared among them.
  2. Next, a private cloud takes those cloud resources and optimizes and operates them for a single organization (either on-premise or by a third-party provider). This is beyond a classic data center, because it takes all the benefits of the cloud—elasticity, virtualization, containers, multi-tenancy—and dedicates these resources for one company to use, perhaps even on-site.
  3. Finally, a hybrid cloud is the composition of both public and private cloud components, offering multiple security and deployment models. One common corporate example is the use of a private cloud to maintain sensitive or critical data on-premise, while using public cloud resources where applicable.

Now the curve ball: enter the concept of cloud brokering and cloud services brokerage (CSB). Here, as with a hybrid cloud approach, CSBs help you combine multiple cloud offerings, but unlike with hybrid, they can all be public or private cloud services. In essence, CSBs offer a facade (as in the design pattern) for making multiple clouds appear and operate as one.


Recall in my definition of hybrid cloud that this approach offers multiple security and deployment models. This can lead to unwanted complexity, especially for organizations that intend to use DevOps to automate and streamline the development, test, and deployment processes. Specifically, a CSB is a company playing an IT role to aggregate and integrate the services of multiple cloud providers for one or more consumers. The end result is a unified combination of both technology and methodologies such that the individual cloud services being brokered appear as a cohesive unit. This can include a single common security model, governance service, component deployment model, provisioning, identity management, and so on.


So, hybrid equals brokerage, right?

Not so fast. Although I wouldn't argue if you declared that a CSB-aggregated cloud offering is a hybrid cloud, there's a subtle difference that makes that statement inaccurate. The difference is that hybrid is specifically used to describe a combination of public and private clouds, and a CSB is used to make multiple clouds—any type—appear as one. That means you can have a hybrid cloud approach with and without a CSB (i.e. where you leverage a brokerage service or aggregate the clouds yourself), or a CSB-aggregated combination of more than one public-only cloud service. This leads to the following more accurate definitions:

  • Hybrid cloud: The combination of public and private clouds services leveraging a CSB.
  • Hybrid cloud: The combination of public and private clouds services without leveraging a CSB.
  • Not a hybrid cloud: Leveraging a CSB to combine multiple public clouds services—this is a brokered cloud service.
  • Not a hybrid cloud: Combining multiple public clouds—this is simply a public cloud solution.

By default, everything else is a private cloud or data center approach.


Conclusion: Brokered cloud infrastructure is cool

DevOps grew out of the agile development methodology and the growth of the cloud. Given that cloud offers the fast spin-up of infrastructure and software services, rapid deployment potential, and instant scale, it only makes sense that the rapid iterative agile approach was extended to IT and software deployment. The savings and increased value that DevOps is delivering has fueled the growth of CSB offerings, and it will only continue to grow.


As a result, I predict the use of CSBs will grow tremendously, and their services will mature to provide even more value over time. The numbers agree: according to MarketsAndMarkets, the global CSB market will grow over 40 percent per year into a $10+ billion business by 2018 (see here for a summary).


One word of caution, however: be aware of the differences, because not all CSBs are created equal.


To learn more about making smart decisions to benefit IT, watch the webinar Application transformation: The difference between Heirloom and Legacy IT.



About the author

Eric BrunoEric Bruno


Computer scientist skilled in full life cycle, large-scale software architecture, design, and development. His accomplishments span development expertise in the areas of client/server ,highly distributed, multi-tiered web, as well as real-time and transactional software.

About the author

Connect with Eric:

 Follow me on Twitter @ericjbruno

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