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Are community cloud services the next hot thing?

By Brandon Butler
March 1, 2012 06:43 AM ET

Network World - When Matthew Lodge, senior director of cloud services for VMware, looks out over the cloud landscape and envisions how it will continue to evolve, he sees community clouds playing a big role. And he's not the only one.

Community clouds can be thought of as subset of public clouds that are tailored to a specific vertical industry, such as government, healthcare or finance, offering a range of services, including infrastructure, software or platform as a service. The National Institute for Standards in Technology defines them as being "an infrastructure shared by several organizations that supports a specific community that has shared concerns."

Read: A world of PaaS-ibilitiesA

Background: Public cloud vs. private cloud: Why not both?A

A healthcare community cloud, for example, could be tailored to provide specific security and regulatory requirements that are compliant with HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which regulates strict standards for health-related data protection. Or, a financial services community cloud could be optimized to provide ultra-low latency for stock traders to execute financial transactions.

"Ultimately, if there is a cloud that better suits a customer from a business perspective, that can be a much more attractive option than something that's generic and has not been customized for their particular industry," Lodge said.

From a vendor perspective, community clouds let service providers distinguish themselves in a growingly-crowded cloud market place, said Andi Mann, vice president of enterprise and cloud solutions for CA Technologies.

For example, numerous providers offer a range of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) products that appeal to a broad base of customers - vendors include Amazon Web Services, RackSpace, Terremark and Savvis. An offering by a vendor targeted for an individual market though can distinguish that provider and allow it to offer complimentary services to the industry as well. A healthcare IaaS cloud provider, for example, can also provide health-care related software as a service (SaaS), or even PaaS offerings, all targeted for that industry. "It's the difference between providing servers, and providing a service," Mann says.

The concept of community clouds is not new. In September, 2010, Gordon Haff, Red Hat's cloud evangelist, wrote a blogpost noting "The rise of the community cloud." Since then, however, adoption has been slow, Haff admitted. The market is still immature and there has yet to be a shakedown of major community cloud providers. Instead, niche vendors are sprouting up to provide services to specific industries.

"I would say we're still in the relatively early days," Haff recently told Network World. "But there's definitely interest." Government, healthcare and financial sectors are where Haff said there has been the earliest adoption of community cloud rollouts. But there are obstacles. Fundamentally, community clouds are not necessarily a new technology, rather they're a different way of congregating users under an umbrella of services. "The technology is not the hard part, organizing industries is," Haff said. Some businesses may have hesitations sharing common resources with competitors, for example.

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Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2012 Network World, Inc. All rights reserved.
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