With increase in number of cloud providers and platforms, cloud service consumers are looking for guidance on selecting and utilizing cloud services for their computing needs. While cloud service brokerage (CSB) is identified to provide such guidance, they are part of the ecosystem that enables cloud service consumers realized their applications and workloads. In addition to CSBs, the ecosystem around federated clouds includes marketplace and cloud management services. The following can be viewed as the structure of this ecosystem and how it provides value to consumers to derive efficiencies in their cloud usage.

Figure below illustrates the layering of these capabilities. It is noted that one or more capabilities can be combined and offered by a software or SaaS vendor.

Federated Clouds and Services

Federated Clouds and Services

Cloud Federation: Federated Clouds provide choice of providers and platforms of cloud services with interoperability and portability of services. Cloud Federation is the capability that facilitates the provisioning and access of cloud services across platforms, providers and delivery models. This is realized through cloud libraries or hosted services that provide abstractions of the cloud platform capabilities (e.g. jClouds, DeltaCloud, ComputeNext). While common APIs to cloud platforms and providers has been a hot topic, it is normalization of the service offers that provides real value to consumers to help them compare services.

Cloud Marketplace: Each cloud provider and platform has different capabilities and offerings. The marketplace provides a catalog of services along with the metadata and insights about the services and their providers. Users can search, compare and select services they need for their applications and workloads. The insights offered are uniquely derived from the operations of the federation. For example, not all providers are equal when it comes to resource provisioning times. It depends on the cloud platform, the provider’s setup as well as the type of resource being provisioned. The marketplace can provide such insights for consumers to make their selection decisions on cloud services and their providers. It is such data and insights one should expect from a marketplace.

Cloud Broker: The data and information offered by a cloud marketplace or cloud service providers are focused on the supply side. Cloud broker can be viewed as the agent who captures and represents consumer requirements that can be realized by selecting, combining and deploying across multiple clouds. Consumer requirements can be, as abstract as I want to run my CRM solution in setup in Spain, or well defined as my blog needs to run in a particular location of a provider. Consumers should expect cloud brokers to provide additional insights on the cloud providers and play a part in the whole lifecycle of a workload not just in finding a provider for your application or just do the deployment and management of your workloads. Once your workload is operational, a cloud broker should monitor utilization and come back with suggestions on improving the operational efficiency of your workloads. May be the current provider you are using for an application is not providing good use experience for your end users and there may be alternatives that the cloud broker can help discover in the cloud marketplace.

Cloud Management: This is one of the clearly defined capabilities in cloud computing that focuses on the operation, access and use of provisioned resources. In current cloud usage models, consumers use different tools to make decisions on where they want to deploy their workloads. Cloud management software/services are used to realize those workloads in one or more cloud providers. The layers described above abstract and/or provide mechanisms to help you make the decision on what you want your cloud to be. Cloud management comes into play once you have figured out where you want to deploy your clouds.

There are a number of Software and SaaS vendors who offer these capabilities. Some cloud management software (e.g. RightScale, Enstratius) offers the ability to deploy across multiple cloud platforms/providers. While others offer brokering and management capabilities in private and hybrid cloud settings (e.g. Gravitant). CompatibleOne, an open source cloud broker, offers the ability to describe your computing needs in a manifest and broker their deployment on cloud providers. ComputeNext offers a cloud marketplace that federates across multiple cloud providers and platforms with basic cloud management capabilities. To provide normalized view to consumers, there are also efforts to model and meter utilization and access across providers (e.g. 6fusion) in federated clouds. Cloud consumers need a combination of these capabilities to automate and realize their workloads.

There have been alternate suggestions on layering the above capabilities. However, the intent is to facilitate efficient cloud utilization across multiple clouds and offering a federated cloud ecosystem. I would love to hear your comments on the above.

4 Thoughts on “On Cloud Federation, Marketplace, Brokering and Management

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  2. Thanks a lot Srikanth for referencing CompatibleOne in you article. Nevertheless I think it is wrongly positionned. According to our vision and our design, CompatibleOne is the backend enabling all these services (management, broker, marketplace, federation). I took the freedom to complete your image to clarify this positioning on http://www.scoop.it/t/compatibleone/p/4002749495/on-cloud-federation-marketplace-brokering-and-management

    • M. Srikanth on June 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm said:

      Thanks Jean-Pierre for your comments.

      The intent is to describe different capabilities, how such capabilities can work in a ecosystem to provide value to cloud service consumers, and identify the need to build such an ecosystem. As identified in the blog, a number of software and SaaS vendors offer a combination of these capabilities. RightScale and Enstratius started as Cloud Management providers and now their offerings are characterized under the NIST definition of ‘Cloud Management Broker’. The framework that CompatibleOne offers covers all the capabilities identified. It should be noted that, while not their forte, a number of vendors offer a combination of capabilities because of customer requests and the absence of an ecosystem that can be tapped to offer a comprehensive solution (ref. LinkedIn discussion on Services Broker wrt RightScale).

      What will it take to build an ecosystem where a cloud service consumer can mix and match the described capabilities offered by different vendors to build their own “stack” of services to realized Federated Clouds? Such a ecosystem can then enable different software and SaaS vendors to focus and provide value at each layer. We are still scratching the surface of these capabilities and lot more value can be offered at each level.

      • Such an ecosystem needs a standard base to build added value on top of it. This is why CompatibleOne offers a secured and reliable layer which enables both consumers and providers to customize the services they need respectively to consume or to provide. This is also the main reason why CompatibleOne is open source and based on open standards: it is fully customizable and interoperable. Plus it offers a guarantee of transparency which none of the proprietary solutions could bring. This notion of transparency is critical to established a trustworthy ecosystem based on open exchanges of cloud services.

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