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Gartner: Cloud services brokerages can lead way to cloud computing

Jack Vaughan

As application integration attention shifted in recent years, the Value Area Network (VAN) may have morphed into a modern SOA-oriented information broker. Now, according to Gartner Group, the time-honored VAN may be further re-positioning as a cloud services brokerage, or CSB, just as many IT shops look for convenient ways to get involved with cloud computing.

Outsourcing implementations and management of B2B and SaaS integration via a brokerage can lower barriers to cloud computing adoption, wrote Gartner Analyst Benoit Lheureux in a recent case study on Mohawk Fine Papers' use of Liaison Technologies' cloud service broker.

The cloud service broker can help promote both SOA and cloud use among mid-size organizations, suggests Paul Stamas, CIO at Mohawk Fine Papers. Moreover, he said, the cloud service broker also can free-up in-house teams that must work to create new business models.

SOA and cloud computing will play an ever growing role in integration, according to Stamas.

''The number and types of integration requirements will continue to increase exponentially, and their granularity will become finer,'' he said. ''Enterprises are consuming [integration points] in the 100s now and soon it will be in the 1,000s or 10s of 1,000s.''

Cloud services brokerages emerge

The aptness of VAN and EDI players as would-be cloud enablers was discussed earlier this summer by Gartner's Lheureux. In a blog entitled

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''Cloud: Proceed with caution – brokerages can help'' he wrote that B2B hubs, system integrators, value-added resellers and others are being asked to help in adopting cloud computing.

This may not be the cool, ''rad'' cloud we first heard tell of – instead it may be the sensible-shoes alternative. The two approaches to cloud could come to represent a classic ''build-buy'' trade-off.

In his case study on the Mohawk B2B/cloud strategy and Liaison's cloud brokerage service, Lheureux finds that it is possible for one IT services provider to support hybrid IT projects that combine traditional supply chain integration with cloud services integration.

For his part, Liaison CEO Bob Renner sees cloud services brokers as a natural step for a company that has evolved traditional EDI techniques by incorporating XML and SOA.

He suggests that Liaison's business-to-business and application-to-application integration, data transformation services and, now, cloud brokerage services can come into play as IT shops work to meld three different styles of modern computing.

"What people need to be concerned about is that there are more and more applications and they are now in three computing architecture styles: one, on-premise enterprise applications; two, SaaS (Software as a Service); and three, cloud computing (in the form of Integration Platform as a Service),'' he said, adding that the three styles require intermediary data mappings and normalization between applications and platforms.

Mohawk Fine Papers' take on application integration

Outsourcing a large degree of integration skills may not fit with some organizations. But for Mohawk Fine Papers, a mid-sized specialty paper company that operates three mills with over 175,000 tons of capacity, the approach has value, according to CIO Stamas.

''SOA and cloud are a means to an end,'' said Stamas. ''What I focus on as CIO at Mohawk is the design of new business models.''

''We need to interoperate with a diverse ecosystem of customers and all kinds of third-party trading partners. We create a value proposition through an ecosystem of companies,'' he said. That ecosystem includes Amazon, Kronos, StrikeIron, SugarCRM and others, as depicted in the Gartner case study.

''A big part of interoperating with other companies is extending your business process across the boundaries of the enterprise. I think of integration from a business process perspective. We use Liaison as a platform to negotiate these integration points with a variety of partners. They take care of the technical details,'' he said.

Stamas credited Liaison's brokerage for its support of varied formats. ''Whether it is master file transfer, pure Web services or cloud APIs, the [integrations] can be orchestrated into pretty robust business processes. Whether on premise on the cloud they become part of a unified info architecture,'' he said.


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