In a nutshell, the cloud services broker is really more of a consolidated cloud app store, or cloud services clearinghouse than a broker. Services like AppDirect and AppTix aggregate cloud services from the vendors they work with, and provide a one-stop-shopping experience that makes it easier for businesses to search for, and find the cloud services they need.
These services, however, are not all-inclusive. Think of it like Netflix. Netflix is a great service, and offers one-stop-shopping access to a vast selection of movies and TV shows. But, there are still plenty of movies and TV shows that you won't find on Netflix, because Netflix is only a clearinghouse for the movies and TV shows it has negotiated arrangements to share.
That said, there are additional benefits to using a cloud service broker aside from collecting the various cloud services options in one place. For customers, a cloud services broker also provides a simplified management portal, and consolidated accounting. There is one place to manage the cloud services, and one payment to pay for them, which is preferable for most companies to administering apps through multiple interfaces, or managing billing for a bunch of separate cloud services.
For IT service providers, cloud service brokers offer an opportunity to provide additional value for customers. For example, both AppDirect and Apptix offer white-label plans for managed service providers that allow them to customize their own branded cloud app marketplace for customers.
A real broker
The consolidated cloud services marketplace is a nice concept, but what would be more valuable is a cloud services broker that functions similar to a broker in other industries. A cloud services broker should be an IT professional who can offer expert guidance to help customers identify and choose the cloud services they should be using.
Most average consumers don't understand all of the financial intricacies of the stock market, so they rely on stockbrokers for expert guidance. People generally don't have the knowledge or resources to shop intelligently for a new home, so they engage the services of a real estate broker to help out.
It makes sense to employ a similar strategy for cloud services. The cloud services broker would be the middleman in the cloud services transaction. The function of the cloud services broker should be to investigate and understand all of the cloud services out there—how they work, what they cost, their pros and cons, and more—and share that expert knowledge with businesses. The cloud services broker would also need to invest time to understand the customer's business, and what needs they're trying to address in order to recommend the cloud services that will fit best and deliver the greatest value.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.