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HP Software's community for IT leaders // October 2013

How to successfully become a cloud broker

The path from service builder to service broker can be rocky. Follow these steps for a smoother journey.


In the past, the IT organization was the source of all things IT. The lines of business requested services, and IT built them. But today, the cloud technology that has dramatically simplified things for enterprise users has also complicated the relationship between IT and the business. Now, when the business has a request, IT doesn’t necessarily build—it researches, procures, integrates, and manages.

At the Sept. 2013 HP Power to Change virtual event, Paul Burns, president of cloud research and advisory firm Neovise, joined HP cloud software expert Ken Won and VP of product marketing Matt Morgan to discuss key success factors for IT organizations that are on their way to becoming cloud brokers. Their insight shows that the transition from the ways of the past to the ways of the future isn’t easy, but it’s possible with a well-considered plan. Among the ways they said a leading IT team distinguishes itself:

1. They develop a strategic plan.

Brokering services instead of building them is new territory for most IT shops. And on any venture into the unknown, it’s important to choose a destination and draw up a map. Where do you want to be in a few years? What capabilities does the business need now, and which of those, to the best of your knowledge, will be critical for the short-term future? What goals are you trying to achieve, and how will the cloud help you?

Consider the various types of cloud and what they might be best for, Burns said, and don’t limit yourself to one. “One of the things that stands out in my mind for the enterprise on the cloud side is that people tend to use more than one cloud,” he said. “We’re talking public, private, and hybrid at the high level, but also multiples of each type.”
But be careful: remember that the cloud itself is not a strategy. Focus on your existing IT strategy—which should support business objectives—and figure out how the cloud enhances it.

2. They decide what services to provide.

Understand that not all services will go to the cloud. So which will? Cloud services can speed up critical processes, so first consider the processes that happen frequently, require too much human intervention, and are critical to the business. A natural candidate is something like testing or patch management, but even disaster recovery and middleware-as-a-service could be appropriate, depending on your organization’s needs.

3. They automate.

Think of the cloud as extreme automation. It gives users a front-end portal to order a service, then automates all of the behind-the-scenes steps involved in provisioning, running, and eventually shutting down that service. With just a few clicks, business users can accomplish the things that used to take them and IT personnel days or weeks. But getting there requires a series of steps.
Start with task-based automation. After you’ve automated tasks, you can link together a series of tasks to automate an entire process. Finally, you can add a self-service portal so users are entirely removed from the behind-the-scenes process that makes their services work.

4. They understand what it takes to keep things running.

SLAs have always been IT’s responsibility, but now IT is banking more than ever on the ability of third parties to meet SLAs. Unfortunately, getting the SLAs your users want isn’t as easy as it might seem.
Burns said enterprise IT has decades of learning regarding SLAs, performance, and quality. “These are the sorts of things that aren’t necessarily addressed in all public clouds,” he said. “So [enterprises are] having a little trouble finding the products and services that are exactly tuned to their enterprise needs.”
Figure out whether your service providers can actually deliver. Are those promising SLAs really attainable? Or are they just marketing? Does the SLA assume that you will do certain things to your own infrastructure to give the app high availability? Remember that users won’t differentiate between internal and external IT when their services are unavailable.

Take your time, do it right

Most IT organizations are accustomed to building their own solutions for the business, and switching to a broker model is a dramatic change. But with a careful, gradual approach, the change doesn’t have to be fraught with trouble.

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