Community clouds are shared infrastructures used by several organisations that have the same concerns such as mission, security, policy and compliance requirements. They’re a relatively new concept and can be very useful for organisations that have a shared set of objectives, whether it’s companies in an industry or departments within a government organisation.
What’s interesting is that community clouds, as new as they are, tend to be less concerned about technology infrastructures and more about the common objectives. That in itself tells you how far cloud technologies have developed and how widespread is the acceptance of the cloud.
These objectives could be meeting the same regulatory compliance mandates, satisfying audit requirements or delivering required service level agreements such as response times. In some senses they are a logical next step for cloud evolution, because each community user doesn’t need their own IT infrastructure, yet they aren’t generic public clouds designed to appeal to the needs of the broadest user. As such, the service focus for community clouds can be very specific rather than broad and general.
Within certain areas, such as the public sector for example, the shared resource model of the community cloud can provide a perfect fit. It supports a specific community, education for example, with each user having a common set of shared concerns around mission, policy and compliance.
However, building a high-quality cloud computing infrastructure requires major investment in terms of expertise, equipment and support. And who would provide this, a local authority or central government? If it came from within the community, for instance a local authority, it’s quite likely that these internal community clouds could be quite limited in the services they deliver and the resources they use because their budgets are limited.
It would make far more sense for these community clouds to be centrally funded, but clearly there are lots of competing budget claims and even more so with public sector activities facing a range of cuts. What’s more likely to happen is that government departments will go out to service providers who specialise in clouds for local and national government. This makes sense for service providers too, because the services they develop could be replicated across regions. For example, within government content delivery and data protection mandates are likely to be similar irrespective of location.
Even at the commercial level, where there are many competing interests, it could also work, as long as the competition between the subscriber companies isn’t too fierce. After all, a community cloud is about meeting a shared set of concerns and these seem to head the list of priorities, rather than a shared infrastructure. But that said, it’s also hard to imagine fierce competitors, in retail for example, agreeing to share the same infrastructure – in fact, I’d say it would be next to impossible.
However, I can envisage companies in the same industry sharing resources that are not business critical such as human resources, pay roll and recruitment. In fact, it’s not too difficult to foresee service providers specialising in specific types of workload for specific industry segments or even ISVs providing their software as a service rather than via licensing. As a result, clouds could target particular industry segments.
A few months ago NYSE Technologies launched the Capital Markets Community Platform, the first cloud platform dedicated to the financial services industry.
It supports a huge ecosystem of NYSE Technologies clients ranging from small and large banks to asset managers and various investment firms. Developed by VMware and EMC, using an Intel platform, it has been designed to increase business agility, simplify market access and reduce trading friction by using rapid on-demand computing resources.
In short, it enables customers to easily access NYSE Technologies’ portfolio of financial services products and buy the computing power they need at any given time so they can focus on their core business rather than IT infrastructure. Users gain cost-effective access to a virtual capital markets community and rapid access to global markets and actionable intelligence. And some of them are fierce competitors.
In a sense, this could be seen as an extension of how some communities work together to access the information they need. The community cloud is certainly an interesting model but one of the big questions is how to extract value from it for all concerned.
At the moment community cloud adoption, within EMEA at least, is almost non-existent (as far as I’m aware). But it is early days. If you have any thoughts I’d be interested to hear.