A new set of skills are poised to become part of the capabilities that managers will apply when making decisions regarding cloud services — that of the cloud engineer. Because cloud services typically deliver commodity-like capabilities, often with consumer-grade service-level agreements (SLAs), organisations will increasingly be dealing with the challenges that result. This will create the need for cloud engineering.

Gartner defines cloud engineering as the process of designing the systems necessary to leverage the power and economics of cloud resources to solve business problems.

Consequently, cloud engineering will need to be done by third-party cloud service brokerages or by the companies themselves. A new set of cloud engineering skills is poised to become part of organisations' skill set management decisions.

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As cloud services are adopted, the ability to govern their use, performance and delivery will be too complex and untrustworthy for organisations to handle their integration and consumption. Hence, cloud service brokerages will emerge.

Gartner describes cloud service brokerages as models (including a set of activities) for conducting cloud service governance (CSG) and integration as a service. These service brokers will be an evolution of today's value-added resellers (VARs), resellers and system integrators (SIs). They will take responsibility for the overall service-level requirements of the business. They are likely to be skilled in specific industries. These brokerages will have deeper skills in the cloud market than small businesses can muster, and will capitalise on a rapidly developing market to get the best deal for the services they resell or integrate.

One of the primary activities of cloud service brokerages will be that of cloud engineering. The bottom line is that service providers deliver off-the-shelf services, but they often do not take into account the specific needs of consumers, nor do they recognise that their services might need to be in a composed solution with other services. To do cloud sourcing properly, someone must enhance, integrate or tailor the services to more specific needs. This does not mean changing what the service does in most cases. Rather, it means either enhancing or aggregating services, as well as providing more meaningful SLAs.

The basic idea of cloud computing is for companies to source services from other providers. If companies have to create a completely new technology base and skill set to integrate or enhance those services (or engineer them), then they will spend more money than ever.

Some companies will do their own cloud engineering, but it will be more the exception than the rule. Certainly, in the short term, some companies will do this, but they must take care to ensure that they are not compounding their problems, rather than solving them. They also need to ensure that there is a compelling business reason to do so. The potential benefit should outweigh the costs and risks.

Cloud brokerages, rather than internally sourced cloud engineering, are the answer to this problem for most companies.

More companies will undertake cloud engineering as they continue to adopt cloud-computing services. However, as this tendency grows, so will the cost and effort associated with using the services. This can eventually lead to lock-in, because once a company has expended significant effort to either "enhance" services or to "integrate" them, it will be less likely to throw that investment away to move to a different service or provider.

A good solution is to work with cloud brokerages that can supply intermediation or aggregation of services to provide for the needs of the consuming company. When they have the necessary qualifications, these brokerages are analogous to SIs that do the cloud engineering on behalf of many customers. Their business depends on implementing and maintaining the cloud engineering on behalf of their customers. These SIs then become VARs for the cloud services that they enhance. At this point, the consuming company is less locked in, because it is actually paying the brokerage for service, not the original provider. Should they want to switch, organisations can switch brokerages (theoretically), go to the originating provider, or ask the broker to provide different enhancements.

The future will not fit neatly into "public" and "private" clouds, but will be on a continuum that will include hybrid modes, virtual private modes and many combinations. As more cloud services become mainstream, we expect to see those that become popular leveraged further into more-custom solutions.

About the authors:

David Mitchell Smith, vice president and Gartner fellow, and Valentin T. Sribar, group vice president at Gartner