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."
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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.