Could Vertical Public Clouds Become Reality in Europe?

  • John Marcus
    John Marcus

    Most vertical cloud solutions to date have been industry applications offered as a service

  • Public cloud services dedicated to key verticals could remove some barriers to utility computing adoption

Some vertical cloud service offerings have been around for some time, although not quite as long as horizontal SaaS offerings for applications like CRM. In Europe, there are a handful of consortia and trading platforms ranging from the UK public sector’s G-Cloud to the EU scientific community’s Helix Nebula cloud marketplace, the latter supported by Atos, CGI, CloudSigma, T-Systems and others. In both cases, end user organizations have the choice of a range of providers for a number of defined solutions across IaaS, SaaS, PaaS and value-added services. Individual service providers have well-developed solutions for core verticals – e.g., healthcare, financial trading and e-commerce – but the focus there tends to be on business applications.

Is infrastructure as a service (IaaS) too generic to require a vertical specialist? Up to now the answer has been yes, of course. When it comes to raw computing and storage, data management and backup solutions, requirements look the same no matter the industry. Most enterprises use Windows PCs, after all. But it is also commonly known that enterprises tend to use public services only for ad hoc or supplemental usage, keeping day-to-day and mission-critical workloads either on premises or in a private cloud environment. There are genuine concerns about using shared facilities for what can only be described as dedicated uses – computing directly tied to the success of the business. Public cloud must support all use cases and users, and is perceived as a solution designed to meet the needs of the lowest common denominator.

One service provider in the UK is turning that notion on its head. Skyscape, founded in 2011, is focused solely on public cloud services for the UK public sector. Its strategy assumes that each vertical within each country will be served by only one or two public IaaS/PaaS providers, and it sees a definite advantage to positioning itself for the public sector. The largest vertical in the UK, it is also cash-strapped, undergoing disruption from austerity measures and new demands for digitalization, but it also has strict requirements for security and connectivity. Skyscape is making public cloud acceptable for all use cases in UK public sector organisations by adhering to Pan Government Accreditation (PGA) up to IL3, offering bridging for hybrid solutions between IL2/Official) and IL3/Secret, and making the most of the existing vertical marketplace (G-Cloud) to differentiate from rivals through disruptive pricing and ease of use. With its single-minded start-up focus on the needs of a specific vertical, it offers a simpler, transparent solution designed with a specific audience in mind, unencumbered by legacy issues. From the customer’s perspective, it is still public cloud, but it is a public cloud service meeting strict and relevant requirements. With security and privacy controls in place and undesirable neighbours kept out, this “public” cloud appears quite a bit more exclusive. Given the choice of a dozen generic offers, several of which may not be around three years from now, or an expensive private cloud solution, a third option like Skyscape’s could be the answer for enterprises in other sectors as well.

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