Cloud Computing Brokers: A Resource Guide

Is a "cloud broker" what your company needs to navigate the cloud computing opportunity? Here's a guide to cloud brokers and open source cloud management projects tools, with a description of their offerings.

Linda Leung

January 22, 2010

7 Min Read
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Businesses are recognizing the benefits of cloud computing but are often wary of handing over their prized applications to public clouds for fear of insufficient security and lack of direct control, particularly with public clouds. This has spawned a host of cloud brokers to serve as intermediaries between end users and cloud providers. (Read more about this topic in Cloud Brokers: The Next Big Opportunity?)

Gartner defines three opportunities for cloud brokers:

* Cloud Service Intermediation: Building services atop an existing cloud platform, such as additional security or management capabilities.

* Aggregation: Deploying customer services over multiple cloud platforms.

* Cloud Service Arbitrage: Brokers supply flexibility and “opportunistic choices” – and foster competition between clouds.

To help you determine which cloud broker fits your needs, we've pulled together a list of cloud brokers and open source cloud management projects (in alphabetical order) with a brief description of their offerings. We will continue to update this list as new suppliers come on board. Have we missed someone? Send us your feedback.

Launched in March 2009 as part of the winter class at start-up incubator Y Combinator, Cloudkick provides management tools for Amazon and Rackspace. Users monitor their clouds through a dashboard, which also allows for tagging and color coding of nodes for easier identification. Users can see how their clouds are doing through visualized graphs. The service is hosted on the SliceHost service owned by Rackspace. Cloudkick also developed the open source project libcloud, a pure python client library for interacting with Amazon EC2, Slicehost and Rackspace Cloud Servers. In September Cloudkick 2009 raised $750,000 in funding. Its services are currently free and it is working on a suite of commercial offerings.

CloudSwitch claims to move data center applications to clouds without modification, allowing customer to manage their apps from within the datacenter using existing tools and processes. Established in 2008, its beta customers have been using Amazon EC2, but CloudSwitch plans to support other platforms from Rackspace, Microsoft, VMware and Terremark. CloudSwitch is delivered as a software appliance and contains the management components for discovering applications, orchestrating cloud deployments, and managing cloud usage, the company explains. Its CloudFit function automatically selects the appropriate combination of processor, memory, and storage. Secure communication and storage services are automatically provisioned via a local control point within each cloud deployment. These are virtual instances that run on behalf of the enterprise user and manage the cloud infrastructure, including data management, synchronization, and long-duration data transfers.

CohesiveFT says it has been providing enterprise-grade virtualization and cloud products since 2006. It's flagship products are Elastic Server, Context-Cubed, and VPN-Cube. Elastic Server is a multi-cloud virtual server image design and management system, Context Cubed is a cloud topology management software, and Elastic Server is a multicloud server image design and management system.

An open source project aimed to develop an ecosystem of tools, scripts and applications for the cloud. The project also aims to write a common, REST-based API to enable developers to write once and manage across multiple clouds. Cloud supported include Amazon EC2, RHEV-M RackSpace and RimHosting, and private clouds based on VMware and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager.

With among its investors, Elastra says it enables enterprises to use their legacy applications in public and private clouds. In November 2009, it announced Elastra Cloud Server (ECS) 2.0, Enterprise Edition, which enables applications based on Oracle databases and WebLogic Application Servers and integrated with management tools such as Tivoli and OpenView to be used on private VMware or Citrix clouds, or Amazon's public cloud. There is a free version of ECS running on Amazon Web Services, while the commercial Enterprise Edition is aimed at private data centers. For more, seeElastra Cloud Server Extends SaaS.

EnStratus offers a cloud management platform for enterprise applications running on Amazon and Rackspace clouds. In addition to offering the usual configuration and monitoring of cloud resources, enStratus claims its security architecture offers up to six nines of availability. All customer data is stored on enStratus' servers running on redundant virtualized environments on dedicated physical servers. The data centers are located in downtown Minneapolis. EnStratus operates three VLANs; two house the Web console, Web services, and provisioning systems, and are accessible from the public Internet. A third houses customer credentials and is not addressable from the public Internet. The file systems are encrypted using SHA256 encryption.

Eucalyptus Systems
Eucalyptus is an open source private cloud platform that enables customers to build private clouds that are compatible with public clouds such as Amazon EC2. Customers will test out their applications on their private clouds with a view to moving them to public clouds. Eucalyptus software has been adopted by Canonical as the engine behind the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC), which is bundled with Ubuntu 9.10 Server Edition. Customers include Eli Lilly, NASA and Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.

Kaavo offers enterprise management of cloud services from Amazon, Flexiscale and GoGrid. Kaavo's IMOD provides security atop of those public clouds by configuring firewalls and VPN connectivity with both the cloud server and an internal data center or network. Kaava uses AES-256 bit encryption. IMOD monitors the application service levels and takes appropriate actions based on predefined workflows in the System Definition for the application. The System Definition also enables customers to configure multiserver configurations with different operating systems and middleware.

Layer7 Techologies
Layer 7 Technologies is approaching cloud computing with a background in service-oriented architecture and Web services security. Its SecureSpan XML Virtual Appliance supports VMware/ESX and supports both private and public clouds. It enables customers to implement policies that manage requests to cloud apps, and controls, monitors and adapts public, private and hybrid clouds. A cloud vendor SLA enforcement feature measures and tracks cloud service provider performance; and supports strict failover between public and private cloud providers, round robin, best effort and latency-based routing.

LTech was originally set up as a Google Enteprise Partner, working with customers to deploy Google Apps and the Google Search Appliance. It later added cloud services to its portfolio and is a partner of Amazon Web Services and RightScale. Its services for enterprise cloud customers include cloud assessment (recommending either a public, private or hybrid cloud), proof of concept, production migration, and management/training. In January 2009, LTech merged with IT consultancy The Matlen Silver Group, which provides project management and IT staffing to the financial and pharmaceuticals industries.

RightScale offers a cloud management platform that enables organizations to deploy and manage applications across multiple clouds. At the core is RightScale's Server Templates, which the company says differs from emerging common cloud APIs because the templates enable users to "take advantage of the unique capabilities of different clouds." ISVs build one server template that automatically installs their software on other supported cloud infrastructures. RightScale is based on Opscode Chef, an open source server configuration management framework. Customers can select, migrate and monitor clouds of their choosing from a single management environment. RightScale supports clouds from Amazon Web Services, Eucalyptus Systems, Flexiscale, GoGrid, and VMware. For more see RightScale and Managed Clouds.

Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland with offices in London, Paris and Washington D.C., Vordel is an XML and service-oriented architecture appliance specialist. The beta of its Vordel Cloud Service Broker was launched in November 2009, and the service is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2010. The service manages multidomain cloud services by registering them in a single repository to enable monitoring and policy enforcement.

Zimory is a spinoff of Deutsche Telekom, and claims to be the first online marketplace for cloud computing, bringing buyers and sellers of computing resources. Zimory Public Cloud for sellers aggregates available server capacity from around the world and makes it available through an Internet trading platform, according to the company. Buyers purchase capacity using Zimory Public Cloud, with Zimory handling pricing, contracts, security, virtual machine migration, and billing. Customers can choose the geographical location of the physical data center, and Zimory provides a choice of three levels of quality of service. Customers choose from a range of appliances, from a simple Linux or Windows image to fully-configured application stack.

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