Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Community Cloud: Real-World Example

When I first heard the term "Community Cloud" I shuddered. I thought: Just what we need... another cloud definition.

But I had a peek at one yesterday speaking with an established services customer (who must remain anonymous for the moment). They got their start building a co-location facility for companies in their specialized and highly-regulated industry.  But it became obvious that they could add more value as a service provider than just supplying a cement slab, cooling and electrical outlets.

So they've set out to create a raw cloud IaaS infrastructure, but with some attributes that are specific to the community/ecosystem that they serve:
  • Security: Access to the cloud is granted only after a trusted validation of identity (required by regulating bodies) - and certain out-of-band management functions can only be made over hardware VPNs.
  • Availability: Cloud resources are available at roughly a five-9's level (or better) including complete fail-over and DR sites - this is uber-Enterprise-Grade availability.
  • Performance: Because of the specialized industry, the processing and networking performance of the cloud is optimized for high transaction rates and extremely low-latency.
Most other cloud properties, such as elasticity and metering are as you would expect.

Because of the special attributes, the company aims to become a special-purpose Cloud Service Provider to its industry - something that a generic AWS, Google or Rackspace could never be. And many other firms in the industry -- large and small -- will likely find both economic and performance advantages to host in its infrastructure.

Then, things really got interesting...

In addition to the raw IaaS they'll provide, they also plan to provide a special-purpose PaaS to tenants. For example, most clients will tend to use a common set of "Big Data" - ranging in size from Terabytes to Petabytes. If each tenant maintained their own instance of this data, it would be massively costly, inefficient and complex. So instead, the company will host a single, on-site shared instance of the data, charging for its access and use by users of the cloud. And they expect to offer a wide range of such PaaS services in the future.

What does this example say to me?  That (as many predict) the market may in fact only support a very few number of generic IaaS providers who compete almost solely on cost and economies-of-scale. But, assuming this example is even partially successful, there will be room in the market for countless "community clouds" serving the special needs of enterprises and ecosystems globally.

I'd be interested to know if you're aware of opportunities (or instances) of other real-life specialized community clouds in your area of business. The era of cloud has only just begun.

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