The shrinking gap between cloud service providers and consumers

The shrinking gap between cloud service providers and consumers

Summary: An insurance services provider crosses the line: 'If you talked to me four years ago, I suspect I would not have envisioned myself sitting on stage today saying I'm a cloud service provider.'


With the rise of cloud services, many non-IT companies are finding themselves in the cloud business. They may not even call it that, but they are providing cloud services to customers and partners.

Clouds and Sun 2-photo by Joe McKendrick
(Image: Joe McKendrick/ZDNet)

InfoWorld's Eric Knorr just uncovered another example of a non-IT company morphing into a cloud provider, part of the increasingly blurry lines between service providers and consumers.

Milliman, a large independent actuarial and consulting firm, is now a cloud provider, and calls it for what it is:

"If you talked to me four years ago, I suspect I would not have envisioned myself sitting on stage today, saying I'm a cloud service provider," Van Beach, product manager at Millman, told Eric. "But that's really what we are, and I think we're doing pretty well at it."

Milliman initially moved a risk management application to Microsoft's Windows Azure public cloud in 2010 to handle spikes in its workload. The project took on a life of its own as the company moved more functionality, such as workflow, into the cloud — functionality that it extends to its client base.

"What began as public cloud approach to address a problem of variable workloads quickly morphed into an opportunity to take multiple activities related to the actuarial process — previously scattered across client desktops — and centralize and secure them in the public cloud. As a result, Beach said, Milliman can now offer a solution that exists nowhere else in the industry today."

Topic: Cloud

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  • Bravo! Sell what you built for yourself!

    It's a great idea when it works out. Back in the bad old mainframe days, many large customers wrote large software packages for their own use, then found out that selling or leasing, and supporting, the software for others, EVEN their competitors, made a very good revenue stream. For example, Eastern and American Airlines worked together to build Sabre from the hardware up (with its own non-IBM operating system, Airline Control Program or ACP), and it later became the industry standard for airlines; Eastern even adapted it for a large small-loan company project. A large application for the trucking business, COBIS, also started out as one truck company's private application.

    One characteristic of both these businesses is the need to connect and transfer (passengers or packages) between competitors, so with a de facto industry standard for the INTERNAL processing, standardizing the INTERFACES (reservations, ticketing, freight transfer, freight charge rating and splitting, etc.) became that much easier.

    I wish the subject company of this article good fortune with their new product.