The role of cloud broker is a complex one that bridges the roles of cloud service provider, integrator, and traditional IT services company. The common agenda of these IT services companies is to make it simpler for businesses to acquire, provision, and pay for cloud services or for large telecommunications companies to help provide them for their Internet customers. One example that I've covered in the past is AppDirect, which powers the Upware marketplace from Comcast by providing a common way of accessing and managing at least 150 different cloud services.
Ultimately, what distinguishes one cloud broker from another? The most visible differentiation comes through the management interface, the way in which services are exposed to the ultimate end consumers and their IT management counterparts (if appropriate). For cloud broker Apptix, the engine behind that interface is Parallels.
Like other cloud brokers, Apptix serves several different customer constituencies, including managed service providers that want to offer cloud services under their own white-labeled cloud app marketplace, or large businesses that want to provide a centralized management point for offering cloud-hosted solutions (usually with the "cloud" safely secured in some sort of dedicated environment). The company handles the latter sort of engagement for more than 17,000 different companies, according to Joy Nemitz, chief sales and marketing officer at Apptix. One example is a large healthcare network for which Apptix provides and supports email, antivirus, spam filtering, and archiving services to many different locations, she said.
"We are enabling these services to be easily consumed," Nemitz said. "Integration, provisioning, management become much more of an effort for these companies than if they were to use Apptix."
The reason I'm on the phone with her in the first place is because Apptix cloud brokerages are aggregated and delivered using the Parallels hosting and cloud services enablement platform. Apptix is one of Parallels' Platinum Partners, which is the highest partnership level that Parallels currently support.
One of Apptix's named customers in the telecommunications space is Sprint; it powers the carrier's hosted cloud business solutions portfolio, including hosted Microsoft Exchange, mobile email synchronization, mailbox continuity services (failover), hosted Microsoft SharePoint, encryption, and archiving services. That service actually is a wholesale offering meant to enable Sprint service resellers, in turn, to offer cloud services to small and midsized businesses (SMBs).
"Sprint's cloud solutions are integrated and delivered under the reseller's brand across this platform, with a single sign-on and a single bill for services," said Ben Vos, vice president of the Sprint Wholesale Business Operations, in a statement. "By offering advanced cloud services, such as those provided by Apptix, across a single interface, we complement the other wireless and wireline services in our wholesale portfolio, and help grow and support our customers' SMB solutions revenue."
In short, Apptix uses the Parallels platform to help aggregate cloud services from companies including BlackBerry, GlobalRelay, InnerApps, Identity Synchronizer, Microsoft, Mozy, Network Solutions, Nintex, Sonian, and Symantec. It considers the technology to be the key differentiator. In addition, it has also allied itself with several services partners that can assist with migrations, including SharePoint governance and migration company Axceler Solutions, Microsoft Gold Certified partner Bamboo Solutions, and intranet and extranet consulting company i3Solutions.