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GCN : October 2012
6 GCN OCTOBER 2012 • GCN.COM NEWS ANALYSIS A self-service Web portal that lets state agencies in Texas choose cloud ser- vices from a marketplace of providers could serve as a model for how federal agencies could use cloud brokerage services. The Texas Department of Information Resources recently published plans for a multi-year Pilot Texas Cloud Offering. The portal is designed to allow a small group of state agencies to choose virtual private cloud services from a marketplace of providers made avail- able via cloud broker Gravitant. Now NJVC, a federal IT consultancy and services provider, has unveiled its "Cloudcuity Management Portal," a cloud broker service that would let fed- eral agencies test, design and price an array of cloud services from different providers before spending money and committing to large-scale migration. The portal is based on cloudMatrix, Gravitant' s cloud lifecycle manage- ment platform being used in the Texas project. It would enable federal agencies to compare key features from cloud providers, such as security, service-level agreements and cost. By be being able to test applications for suitability in the cloud, typical costs and inef ciencies associated with mi- grating untested applications could be alleviated, according to Kevin Jackson, vice president and general manager for cloud services with NJVC. The concept of brokerage services --- those that let organizations choose cloud providers by the job and change providers on the y depending on prices or services --- appears to be awareness momentum in government. The General Services Administration this summer issued a request for in- formation on the concept and recently scheduled a Twitter chat to hear views from the IT community. In addition to the GSA, the Health and Human Services Department has requested information about the cloud broker concept, Jackson said. For its part, the Defense Department is planning to go in-house, using the Defense Information Systems Agency as its cloud broker. And NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has become the cloud broker for the lab itself. The concept of cloud brokerages is still maturing, Khawaja Shams, man- ager of data services for tactical opera- tions at JPL told GCN. "If you go with a cloud broker, you are forced to pick the least common denominator across all the vendors they are supporting," he said. And Susan Zeleniak, senior vice president of public sector markets with Verizon Enterprise Solutions, which owns infrastructure-as-a service provider Terremark, wonders whether apple-to-apple comparisons can be made between brokerages and tradi- tional cloud service providers. "We have a broad spectrum of ser- vices," she said, noting that it would be dif cult to compare them with other cloud service providers' offerings. Plus, it is still not clear who the customers will be paying, the broker or the cloud provider, Zeleniak said. • [BrieFing] Is government ready for cloud brokerage services? CLOUD BROKER OFFERS CHOICES TO FEDS In approaching the federal marketplace, NJVC o ers the classic middleman proposition: The firm has worked out agreements with multiple cloud service providers "so agen- cies won t have to," said NJVC s Jackson. Not sure what level of service you might need or how to translate your requirements from one service or provider to the next? NJVC o ers an electronic services catalog that allows users to select and design a virtual data center in which they can simulate the monthly cost of a particular cloud service. Using a feature called Cloud Screen, users can put in information about their IT environments, such as what types of technology are they using (IBM AIX, Micro- soft Windows or Linux) or whether they are licensing physical or virtual machines. The results help them determine the readiness of their applications. There are other services, such as moni- toring of multiple service providers service level agreements or being able to quickly switch providers if one fails to meet its SLA, that an agency dealing with a single cloud provider wouldn t have access to. Cloud providers currently o ering services through the Cloudcuity Management Portal are Amazon, GoGrid, Savvis and Terremark. NJVC and Gravitant also are evaluating a number of other cloud providers for future integration in the portal. NJVC is initially o ering infrastructure- as-a-service in which agencies can order virtual servers and computing resources such as storage. Future plans include platform-as-a-service, design and testing and software-as-a-service. --- Rutrell Yasin