Why Cloud Service Providers are Missing the Boat on Community Clouds

Sep 11, 2015

Some things are difficult to define, but easy to recognize (as Justice Potter Stewart observed about pornography). Other things are easy to define, but difficult to identify in real life. Such is the case with community clouds.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) designates community cloud as one of four cloud deployment models (along with public, private, and hybrid cloud). NIST’s definition is fairly straightforward: the community cloud is a deployment model in which “the cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g. mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations).”

Identifying a community cloud in the business world, however, is more challenging. Cloud service providers do not market “community cloud” offers, and many readily admit they have no way of knowing which of their customers may be using their cloud services in a community cloud arrangement. In most cases, the users themselves are best positioned to identify an arrangement as a community cloud, since only the user community is aware if authorized users hail from multiple companies. And they likely do not care how NIST or the industry categorizes their arrangement.

To be sure, some cloud service providers have worked with specific customer groups to develop or support customized community-type deployments—the most common serving the US federal government.

Nonetheless, we at Frost & Sullivan believe the market for “semi-private” cloud services is underserved. Cloud service providers can tap into the opportunity by developing offers that bundle existing private cloud infrastructure services with platforms and services that address the unique need of a community—for example, tools for billing, chargeback, and access management.

Cloud service providers have sequentially embraced three of the four cloud deployment models recognized by NIST: first introducing public cloud services, followed by private clouds, and, most recently, hybrid clouds. They have yet to pursue the fourth model—the community cloud.

Frost & Sullivan believes this is a serious oversight. As more businesses adopt IT strategies that comprise multiple environments and deployment options, we see tremendous potential for an easy-to-deploy, turnkey community cloud. For some businesses, the community cloud may comprise their primary cloud resources, as when an office park developer or chamber of commerce subscribes to a community cloud on behalf of its members. For other businesses, the community cloud may comprise just a single collaborative workload, as when members of a supply chain share critical data.

However, for adoption to become widespread, providers must understand how community cloud deployments differ from private clouds, and step up to provide a full range of service options— beyond infrastructure—to facilitate deployment. The need is especially great where a potential sponsoring organization may have little to no IT staff; for example, a trade organization, an association of libraries or school boards, or a local non-profit.

Several cloud service providers have dipped their toes into the community cloud with their highly-customized government clouds. However, providers can package existing and new services in off-the-shelf community cloud offers that will appeal to a broad range of customers. By bundling infrastructure services with third-party platforms that support functionality such as metering, billing, access management, and security, providers can create a catalogue of industry- or use case-specific community clouds as standard offers. By offering additional services, such as technical support, user management, and infrastructure optimization—either themselves or via partners—cloud service providers can deliver a full-service offer, while increasing revenue.

The time is right for the community cloud, as businesses seek to leverage the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of the cloud model in a secure and compliant way. Cloud service providers that are willing to develop community cloud offers that meet customer needs will open a new revenue stream. Those that do not step up are likely to lose the opportunity to enterprising managed service providers and platform providers.

For more insights on community clouds, please see my latest research.

Category : Cloud

Karyn Price


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