Cloud architecture: What is the difference between a cloud broker and a cloud provider?
Recently, I have done a deep dive into the NIST cloud definitions, as we are revising the cloud computing course Cloud Technogy Associate.
The NIST definitions identify a number of actors in the cloud ecosystem (see NIST SP500-292 Cloud Computing Reference Architecture). Two of these are the cloud broker and the cloud provider. To me they look pretty much the same.
Let us have a look at the definition of cloud provider:
A cloud provider is a person, an organization; it is the entity responsible for making a service available to interested parties. A Cloud Provider acquires and manages the computing infrastructure required for providing the services, runs the cloud software that provides the services, and makes arrangement to deliver the cloud services to the Cloud Consumers through network access.
And this is the definition of cloud broker:
A cloud broker is an entity that manages the use, performance and delivery of cloud services and negotiates relationships between cloud providers and cloud consumers.
The similarities are that both the provider and the broker manage delivery of services and have a relationship with a cloud consumer. The idea is that a broker shields the consumer from aspects of the cloud provider, and adds value of its own, by enhancing, aggregating or arbitering other cloud services.
But what distinguishes the broker from the provider? I would argue that the apparent differences are immaterial. There is a hidden assumption that is untrue, in my opinion.
A cloud broker is likely to have no physical assets, but a lot of cloud providers at the SAAS level have no physical assets either. A typical SaaS or PaaS provider is likely to use services from other providers to augment its own assets. For example: Smugmug uses Amazon’s new DynamoDB to deliver its photosharing function, and Disqus, the commenting system, is used on a lot of other SaaS providers as well.
In this sense, such providers are brokers themselves.
So the punchline is: there really are no brokers, because every broker we can think of is also a cloud provider, and most providers are also brokers.