The concept of community clouds is not new. In September, 2010, Gordon Haff, Red Hat's cloud evangelist, wrote a blog post 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.
Mann says the biggest technical differences between community clouds and public clouds are the functionality characteristics that have been tailored for whatever industry the community cloud serves. A healthcare community cloud, for example, could have specific identity access provisioning and security features that allow users to remain HIPAA compliant with their data storage needs.
Vendors are just beginning to see the competitive advantages of providing community clouds, and the earliest players so far have been providers that already have industry-specific products and services, Haff says. But, Haff, Lodge and Mann all agree that community clouds will likely become more widespread.
Despite community clouds not yet fully catching on, there are some examples in the market. International Game Technology, a vendor of computerized game technology, recently launched its IGT Cloud, aimed specifically at gaming companies. It uses the AppLogic cloud computing platform from CA Technologies to provide cloud-based SaaS offerings for casinos to better manage their games.
Optum, which is the technology division of UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurance providers, is another example. It released its Optum Health Cloud in February as a way for those in the healthcare industry to take advantage of cloud resources. Strict data protection standards regulated by HIPAA, plus a constant pressure to reduce costs and find efficiencies in healthcare management has made community cloud services seem like a natural fit for the industry, says Ted Hoy, senior vice president and general manager of Optum Cloud Solutions. Powered by two data centers owned by Optum, Hoy hopes the community cloud will eventually be able to offer Iaas, SaaS, PaaS for customers.
The service, Hoy says, has differentiating features tailored specifically for the healthcare industry. HIPAA regulations, for example, regulate how secure certain information must be depending on what it is. An e-mail exchange between two doctors about the latest in medical trends needs a different level of protection compared to a communication between a doctor and a patient. Optum worked with Cisco to create security provisions tailor-made for the system that identifies who is entering information, what type of information it is and who has access to it.