The cloud is quickly expanding from a general-purpose data services platform to a series of highly targeted industry vertical solutions, further decreasing the need for businesses of all types to maintain infrastructure to support their operational models.
This is proving to be a crucial niche for smaller cloud players, and even software developers incorporating cloud services into their platforms, as they attempt to carve market share from hyperscale providers likes Google and Amazon.
Earlier this year, ZDNet’s Manek Dubash highlighted the steady shift toward vertical clouds, noting that while initial cloud deployments were earmarked for bulk storage and generic processing, organizations are now looking for the same customized environments in the cloud that they have built up in the local data center. Initially, of course, vertical clouds gravitated toward leading industries like health care and finance, but this is changing as digitalization puts pressure on all sectors of the economy to streamline infrastructure and augment their product lines with digital services.
A case in point is the Viewpoint Enterprise Cloud (VEC) established by construction industry software developer Viewpoint. The hosted services platform is built around the company’s 40-year legacy of construction management software, providing tools ranging from field observations and bid calculation and submission to office functions like accounting and payroll. The goal, as in most vertical solutions, is to allow construction firms to focus more resources on core business processes and less on building and maintaining data infrastructure.
Sometimes, vertical solutions tend to evolve due to aggressive market penetration. Tintri’s Enterprise Cloud Platform is quickly becoming a leading solution for the health care field, having been adopted by multiple leading hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical firms and device manufacturers. Companies like Collingwood General and Marine Hospital in Ontario say Tintri has improved its virtual desktop performance, while Domingo Diagnostics touts the performance improvement from shifting DB2, Oracle and other databases from legacy storage infrastructure.
Vertical cloud solutions are most prominent in SaaS deployments, and this is helping some legacy IT providers manage the transition to leaner data center footprints. Oracle has made a string of vertical SaaS acquisitions over the past decade, says EVP of global business opportunities Bob Weiler, and this is helping to establish a customer base for the gradual transition to more extensive PaaS and IaaS deployments. As InfoWorld notes, this is the reverse of most cloud providers in that it offers highly targeted solutions to industry-specific challenges first, and then provides low-cost services for more generic needs like disaster recovery and archiving later.
While vertical clouds provide many services targeting specific industries, they still require a fair bit of customization for individual businesses, particularly if the intent is to integrate them with on-premises resources under hybrid architectures. But where commonalities exist across business sectors – in areas like reporting, compliance and key processes – the vertical cloud can provide a quick, easy and low-cost way to scale up data operations.
And in today’s business climate, anything that can get the work done faster and cheaper is welcome.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.