With Cloud Computing, the meters are provided by the Cloud Service provider. There is no client-side meter, as in the case of utilities. This means that there is no local onsite meter to examine, and to trust.
The Problem with Meters
Meters are not without their problems, however. The Californian utility, PG&E, recently had problems related to a rollout of "smart meters" in Bakersfield. The website SmartMeters.com reported: "Bakersfield residents believe their new smart meters are malfunctioning because their bills are much higher than before. PG&E claims higher bills are due to rate hikes, an unusually warm summer, and customers not shifting demand to off-peak times when rates are lower."
In this same piece, State Senator Dean Florez, the Majority Leader in California, is quoted as saying, "People think these meters are fraud meters. They feel they're being defrauded. They're getting no benefit from these things."
The story of this "smart meter" rollout has a direct bearing to Cloud Computing. Customers of Cloud services right now depend on the "meters" being provided by the service providers themselves, just like the PG&E customers in Bakersfield. This means they depend on the service provider to tell them about usage and pricing. There isn't an independent audit trail of usage. Additionally, the meter also locks the customer into the service provider.
The main problem with "smart meter" adoption is that trust is lacking in the actual "smart meters." Once this trust has gone, consumers do not feel comfortable with the measurements provided. As such, the meters are not independent -- instead, they are provided by the service provider themselves.
In effect, an independent audit trail is lacking. Another problem with the PG&E "smart meter" rollout is that PG&E have not provided in-home displays with their smart meters. This means that users cannot see, in real-time, their utility consumption data. There is a better way, however. If consumers can see their usage in real-time, then they can control their consumption accordingly. Usage information can be provided either directly, or as a feed that can be pulled into other applications.
Cloud Service Broker
In terms of Cloud Computing, a Cloud Service Broker addresses the issues of trust and usage measurement. It is not a coincidence that much Cloud Service Broker terminology carries over from the world of utilities, because the same problems are being solved: data transfer to cloud computing environments must be controlled, to avoid unwarranted usage levels and unanticipated bills from over usage of Cloud Services. By providing local metering of Cloud Services' usage, local control is applied to Cloud Computing by internal IT and finance teams.
Thus far, most discussion of cloud computing has naturally focused on the Cloud Service provider side. However, there is a missing piece. A Cloud Service Broker provides the missing client-side piece of the Cloud puzzle. It provides an independent track of Cloud Service usage, meaning that consumers do not have to rely on the information provided by the Cloud Service provider. The Cloud Service Broker analyzes traffic and provides reports as well as an audit trail. Reports include usage information in real-time, per hour, per day, and per service. Visibility is key. This is all independent of an individual Cloud service provider.
It is easy to imagine how useful this would be in conjunction with Amazon's new spot pricing model. Acting as a local broker, the Cloud Service Broker could selectively access Cloud service provider services based on the spot pricing at any given time. This goes beyond even the most "smart" smart meter that is available now.
The Cloud Service Broker sits between the Organization and the Cloud Service provider. It can be deployed as an edge device, brokering connections to the Cloud. Additionally, it may be deployed "Cloud-Side," as an Amazon EC2 instance. The Cloud Service Broker enables organizations to apply a layer of trust onto their Cloud Computing applications. It brokers the connection to the Cloud infrastructure, applying governance controls for service usage and service uptime. By connecting to the Cloud through a Cloud Service Broker, organizations can apply control to their Cloud usage, allowing Cloud Computing to be used for enterprise applications.
Organizations require a record of how they are using Cloud Computing. Analytics of Cloud Computing usage includes information about service quality, patterns of usage over time, and identity of users. In this way, an organization can understand how it uses Cloud Computing. Additionally, the Cloud Service Broker detects new Cloud Service usage and brings it to the attention of IT staff, who can apply policies and thus bring it under an umbrella of governance.
As a local meter of Cloud usage, the Cloud Service Broker records Cloud service usage by service type, time of day, and the identity of the user. In this way, an organization can ensure that it knows who is using Cloud services, as well as understanding the pattern of usage. This means the organization will not be surprised by bills for excessive Cloud usage, since the Cloud Service Broker's reports keep them abreast of usage as it happens.
In summary, a Cloud Service Broker provides the missing client-side metering which is vital for Cloud Computing.
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