This content is part of the Essential Guide: An IT pro's survival guide for multi-cloud computing

Use a cloud service broker to reach multi-cloud nirvana

Whether companies want to avoid vendor lock-in or simply cut costs, cloud service brokers can help achieve optimal performance across multiple clouds.

Companies that use Amazon Web Services typically use other public cloud providers, as well. Why? AWS may not provide all of the IT services that administrators need, or other cloud providers may offer lower prices for similar services.

While mixing public clouds sounds scary, tools exist to help admins manage resources across multiple public clouds. These tools, which vary in features, can catalog and provision cloud services. In essence, they create an abstraction layer between applications, end users and cloud services, such as storage and compute resources.

The use of multiple clouds continues to rise in popularity. The overall global cloud service broker (CSB) market is projected to grow from $1.57 billion in 2013 to $10.5 billion by 2018. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.2% from 2013 to 2018, according to a report from MarketsandMarkets.

The reasons for using a cloud service broker, and thus, the rapid growth of multi-cloud usage, are easy to understand. CSBs help companies select the right cloud services that should provide the best performance, reliability and cost efficiency for the needs of a particular business. CSBs also provide management services, including the ability to self- and auto-provision cloud services; they can then analyze the services in terms of performance and even govern the services using pre-set policies. Finally, CSBs have the ability to report on the cloud service usage to understand who's providing the best price and performance.

So, companies that choose to pair Amazon Web Services (AWS) with other public cloud services typically turn to a CSB for all of these reasons. While there are other public cloud services from vendors such as IBM, Oracle and HP, to name a few, most enterprises need to make cloud services from Google and Microsoft work cohesively with Amazon services.

Typically, these are commodity services -- storage, compute and networking, among others -- more than specialized services, such as a brokered DevOps infrastructure. For example, if IT needs a large amount of storage to support a new Hadoop cluster, it would make the request to the cloud service broker. The CSB would then find the storage service that provides the best price and performance for the requirements, whether it's AWS, Google or another cloud provider. Users should find that their storage system is monitored and managed during operations, as well, assuring that all service-level agreements are followed and that end users don't go out of policy in terms of resource use.

The same brokering also occurs within the AWS cloud. The broker considers the various ways that AWS sells cloud services, including the ability to broker services in bulk or in advance of need. Thus, admins could use a CSB to manage thousands of AWS instances. While a single public cloud provider is used, there is still a significant cost benefit from brokering services using a CSB.

As cloud computing progresses and tools -- such as CSBs -- become more commonplace, we'll find that AWS is not the only public cloud game within most enterprises. As far as AWS is concerned, it can work and play well with other cloud resources to meet customer needs.

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