What is an industry-specific cloud?

This trend for industry-specific clouds and wider segmentation is playing out across the IT sector — here's how you can make sense of it all.
26 September 2018

Are you planning your move to the cloud well? Source: Shutterstock

A cloud computing cloud is a cloud, right? Usually yes, unless it’s industry-specific cloud computing cloud.

As we move forward to actually start implementing cloud computing, we can now actually start to find out what companies want when they use cloud ‘machines’ — even if those machines are actually Virtual Machines (VMs) supplied over a web connection from a data center.

This thread for customer use case specifics is now allowing us to build industry-specific clouds. So let’s define what we mean in clear terms.

We already have optimized clouds. These are instances of cloud that have been engineered to be delivered with specific ramped-up tuning for extra storage memory, extra Input/Output transactional ability, extra fast processing power or perhaps wider big data analytics functions.

An industry-specific cloud is also an optimized cloud in the sense of its core tuning, only more so.

Optimized and customized

An industry-specific cloud is a cloud that has been both optimized and customized to fit the typical nuances and specific needs that customers will experience in day-to-day operations inside any given industry vertical from farming to fashion to food processing, fishing, funeral services, forestry and finance — and that’s just the F industries.

So an application-specific cloud is one that is engineered to be delivered with specific performance optimizations, but also with customized functions that are tuned to specific operational, legal, regulatory, commercial (and perhaps even ethical) considerations that are found in a customer’s vertical space.

It is, if you will, going beyond cloud optimization into the ‘last mile’ of where the cloud computing instance is actually applied and used.

Traveling the last mile

“Delivering last mile optimizations for industry-specific use cases means that customers don’t have to perform the customizations they might otherwise have to trouble themselves with at the point of deployment,” said Infor CTO Soma Somasundaram, speaking at his firm’s Inforum 2018 customer event in Washington DC.

Somasundaram has referenced customer use cases where some customers are running cloud applications with customizations that feature ‘more’ lines of code in them than originally existed in the original code base.

Infor CEO Charles Phillips explained that Infor puts customer enhancement requests into the product itself for each industry-specific use case.

Without the industry-specific cloud features in evidence, Phillips suggests that we would expect customers to a) have to perform customizations for themselves or b) have to hire third-party software development teams and Systems Integrators (SIs) to do the job for them.

The disaggregation of jobs

Why bother making cloud computing deployments and their individual ‘instances’ work in this way? Well, obviously it’s more efficient.

But it’s also a question of how well we can use technology to ‘disaggregate jobs’ and separate out those parts of work that we can push to AI and so-called Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and equally, concentrate on allowing humans to do the things they’re good at like personal engagement and teamwork.

“Industry-specific clouds are part of a cyclical pattern of commoditization, and by that, I mean that where there is a need, or demand, for something, typically there will be a move towards commoditizing the answer to that need,” said Richard Slater, Principal Consultant, Amido, a cloud-first software engineering and development company.

By way of an example, Slater suggests that we should think about the fact that the demand for humans to travel short distances, say between towns, was originally satisfied by horses, then cars, then taxis, then Uber — and it will eventually be covered by a fleet of autonomous cars in every town and city.

The key is each innovation builds upon the next.

“We have seen the same in IT, to satisfy the need of running a business process we had servers, then virtual machines, then virtual machines in the cloud, then PaaS and then SaaS – industry-specific clouds is about commoditizing a common need, typically this is taking the form of emphasizing specific quality attributes of that cloud,” added Amido’s Slater.

Your cloud-specific future

This trend for industry-specific clouds and wider segmentation is playing out across the IT sector. We’re also seeing ‘divisions of industry’ showing up as a means of differentiating cloud.

There’s a lot of complexity here and we’re only just starting to understand what this differentiation, disaggregation, segmentation, and commoditization really means.

At least the next time you go shopping for a cloud, you already know that the vendor will say: ‘Sure! We have several types, what sort would you like?’ Get your cloud shopping list out and get specific.