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The public cloud has transformed the concept of the cloud marketplace into an increasingly preferred operating model. Through cloud marketplaces, businesses can procure development code, services and even products — all easier than buying a tomato from your local grocer.

Those same businesses are now asking for private cloud environments where they can create a similar operating experience in their own data centers. To fully realize that goal, the cloud marketplace concept must evolve to support environments outside the public cloud.

Today's cloud marketplaces

A typical cloud marketplace user experience might sound something like this: "I'll take a Linux OS, a VPN, a database, some web-application firewall, plus some storage backup. Oh yeah, and could you throw in a few functions and then bill me at the end of the month, pretty please?"

Sounds corny, but developers working in the public cloud operate like this every day. 

Cloud marketplaces make procuring the code and common things software developers need extremely easy. With a few simple clicks, a developer can quickly select, purchase and receive the code and appropriate licensing needed for software products, enabling them to accelerate the speed of development at a staggering rate. This abstraction of purchasing from procurement and delivery sits at the heart of the cloud operating model.

Independent software vendors (ISVs), along with many hardware vendors who've disassociated their software from hardware, now sell their wares through cloud marketplaces. As a key channel partner with the leading cloud hyperscalers (AWS, Google Cloud and Azure), WWT continues to see an evolution in the concept of the cloud marketplace, with more vendors selling more solutions through this model every month. Several large companies are even developing their own cloud marketplace programs to sell traditional products, such as routers and switches.

What about private cloud?

Public cloud providers have developed hybrid cloud solutions that bring the public cloud operating model on-site to meet the demand for on-premises versions of their offerings. While this type of model provides access to that provider's cloud marketplace, delivery capabilities and enables easy expansion into the public cloud, the offering is still proprietary to each specific cloud hyperscaler.

Moreover, while hybrid cloud solutions extend the benefits offered by public cloud hyperscalers, not every business wants or needs a hybrid cloud solution. In fact, there remain numerous businesses and business drivers demanding a truly private cloud solution.

One important distinction between hybrid and private cloud solutions is that hybrid solutions are still tied to the services and offerings of a specific cloud provider. Alternatively for private cloud solutions, consumers must rely on solutions from vendors who make their software available regardless of cloud provider. Open-source software is a great example, and vendors such as Palo Alto, F5 and Cisco are common commercial examples.

While building a private cloud would seem relatively easy, the technology needed to deliver a true cloud-like operating model experience with all the same features simply does not exist at this time. The closest thing we have to a private cloud marketplace is either deploying OpenStack or investing in the entire VMware portfolio.

Is a private cloud marketplace feasible?

To achieve the goal of creating a true private cloud, we need the infrastructure, we need automation and orchestration tools, software to track consumption, and we need a marketplace with the available offerings desired by the customer.

There's really nothing special about the infrastructure, and many companies have invested heavily in adopting skills around automation and orchestration. There are also a few entities that offer solutions for tracking consumption of IT resources for billing and reporting purposes. 

The marketplace component is where we are severely lacking. The concept of a service catalog has been around for several years, but there are some very distinct differences between a service catalog and a marketplace. Service catalogs have traditionally delivered access to products that an organization has already acquired and pre-packaged for use in their environment. In comparison, a private cloud marketplace would offer services directly from product vendors, access to the latest code and, where available, access to consumption-based billing of the utilized product. If my developer can purchase a web-application firewall from a major vendor with a few clicks in a public cloud, they should be able to do the same through their on-premises solution, with the vendor offering a procurement model that facilities this transaction in real-time, with billing happening through established purchasing agreements.

How soon is now?

The future of cloud marketplaces will arrive when software vendors are able to produce marketplace plug-ins for customers' on-premises solutions, allowing their offerings to appear in the marketplace while the code and delivery are managed by the vendor. 

For this model to be effective, a standards-based approach is necessary for the developers of marketplace interfaces, allowing all marketplace vendors to build to a consistent set of requirements. Any marketplace offering must also be coupled with flexible purchasing agreements (like exist with cloud operating models) and secure delivery mechanisms that facilitate the real-time delivery of code and licensing.

But why stop there? Once a viable marketplace offering and standard exists, we can expect to see more vendors offer their solutions through private marketplaces in the same way we're seeing more vendors sell traditional offerings through public marketplaces today.

Imagine a future where you can directly procure product from vendors such as Cisco, Fortinet and NetApp. They add their add-in to your marketplace, and your teams can simply acquire what they need, with products shipped upon order and billing processed through an existing contract.

The future of cloud marketplaces is within view. And that's a pretty exciting thought.