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Understanding The Different Roles In A Cloud Computing Setup

If you are migrating from enterprise to a cloud based solution, it is necessary to understand the different roles in cloud computing. In this post, I will cover the 6 major roles in the cloud setup.

Cloud Service Provider

This is the entity that provides the cloud service. The cloud service provider owns and controls the cloud computing platform. The services include SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and IpaaS (Integration Platform as a Service). Based on the services provided, the CSPs can be broadly categorized into 3 types:

  • Application provider – These are providers that directly provide you access to an application without you having to worry about the layers underneath. Thus, if you are running a mail application with Google, you don’t need to worry much about the server infrastructure, resources such as RAM or platforms. Examples include Dropbox, Salesforce.com, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365.

  • Resource provider – These provide virtualization systems on top of their servers and lets you buy resources such as RAM, computing cycles and disc space. Offerings from providers such as Rackspace Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS) typically fall under this category.

  • Infrastructure provider – These lease servers and associated infrastructure from their datacenters. The infrastructure includes servers, storage, bandwidth and the datacenter (with power, space and personnel to man them). Companies such as Rightscale provide you the complete infrastructure to set up your cloud service.

Cloud Consumer

This is the user that is consuming the cloud services. The “Cloud Consumer” could be one of the following:

  • Developers in your enterprise who are building the apps using the cloud infrastructure.

  • Office workers and end consumers who are accessing the storage and productivity applications.

  • IT support team that uses the cloud services such as cloud backups to supplement their resources.

Cloud Service Brokerage

Cloud Service Brokerage (CSB) provides intermediation services between the consumer and the provider. They provide three major services:

  • Aggregation services – integration service different cloud service providers,

  • Intermediation services – help you identify the right service provide, consistent billing and support

  • Arbitrage services – getting good deals on what you pay for different cloud services.

Cloud Architects

These are the guys who will help you design your cloud solution and develop the right cloud architecture that suits your needs. The architecture should incorporate your storage, security, computing and compliance needs and build the right design that satisfies these needs.

Cloud Auditor

Security is a very critical aspect in any cloud setup. Since you might be storing confidential enterprise data on a server over which you have less control, it is important to put in place the right auditing and regulatory processes. Cloud Auditors are a third party who will provide independent assessments on your cloud setup and point out to the security vulnerabilities, data leaks and performance issues. There are 5 major types of audits that these companies might offer:

  • Data security audit – making sure that your enterprise data and those of your customers are not leaked out.

  • Regulatory compliance audit – these are audits that make sure your cloud installation satisfies all the major regulations from federal (Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA), state level (California’s data breach law, Massachusetts’ data protection law) to industry body level.

  • Performance and Reliability audit – this audit measures how good is your setup for various performance tests. These could include stress testing and manual testing to find out bottlenecks.

  • DR/BC (Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity) Audit – finds out how fast can you recover from disasters and how much of the data can you salvage.

  • ROI (Return on Investment) audit – this checks the business justifications of the cloud setup and make sure it makes accounting sense.

Cloud Carrier

This is the provider of transport level infrastructure to the cloud and connects cloud service provider and the customers. Although the telecom companies providing these services are assumed to operate in the lowest part of the stack, these days the carriers are getting more aggressive in growing up the value chain by providing transport solutions tailored to the needs of various cloud providers and consumers.

By Balaji Viswanathan

Balaji

Balaji Viswanathan is the founder of Agni Innovation Labs that helps startups and small businesses with their marketing and tech strategy. He has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Maryland and has been blogging for the past 7 years on technology and business related topics.

3 Responses to Understanding The Different Roles In A Cloud Computing Setup

  1. Great article Balaji!  Perhaps there is also an emerging role or category of plugin apps that connect or integrate the services by provided by application providers.  For example, our app, Cirrus Insight, is a Chrome extension that integrates Salesforce and Google Apps.  http://www.cirrusinsight.com

  2.  @cirrusinsight Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think the plugins could be made a separate category in some time, once the category matures a bit. 

  3. How is a resource provider different from a service provider ? AWS and rightscale both provide IaaS.

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