Before diving into the community cloud, let’s quickly brush up on the basics of cloud computing. At its core, cloud computing involves delivering various services over the Internet, including storage, databases, servers, networking, software, and more.
Four Main Cloud Deployment Models:
Public Cloud: Operated by third-party cloud service providers, these clouds offer their computing resources over the Internet. An example is Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Here, the hardware and infrastructure are owned and managed by the cloud provider, and users access services and manage their accounts using a web browser.
Private Cloud: Exclusively used by a single organization. It can be hosted on-premises or by a third party. While it offers greater control and privacy, it’s often more costly than a public cloud due to the organization shouldering all costs of infrastructure and management.
Hybrid Cloud: A mix of private and public clouds, allowing data and apps to be shared between them. Organizations can achieve greater flexibility and optimization of existing infrastructure by using this model.
Community Cloud (the one we’re focusing on): It’s a collaborative effort in which infrastructure is shared between several organizations from a specific community with common concerns (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.), whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. This is ideal for businesses that have shared concerns but don’t want to build an entirely private infrastructure.
What is a Community Cloud?
A community cloud is a specialized cloud computing solution where the infrastructure and resources are shared among multiple organizations with similar objectives and requirements. It bridges the gap between public clouds, which serve multiple unrelated clients, and private clouds, which are tailored for individual organizations. By sharing resources in a community cloud, organizations can achieve cost efficiencies, while also benefiting from a tailor-made environment designed to address their collective needs and concerns, such as specific security standards, compliance requirements, or application hosting.
Uses of Community Cloud:
Community clouds are particularly beneficial for sectors like healthcare, finance, or governmental agencies where participants might have shared regulatory demands. Instead of each entity investing in its own infrastructure, they pool resources, ensuring that shared challenges like data privacy or specific software requirements are addressed uniformly. This collaborative approach not only reduces costs but also promotes a standardized environment, ensuring consistency across the participating entities. In essence, the community cloud offers a balance of customization, cost-efficiency, and collaboration, making it an attractive choice for organizations with shared digital objectives.
Like a shared online workspace for groups that do similar jobs, like banks, hospitals, or research teams for example. These groups often need the same kind of computer tools or face the same problems. Instead of each group trying to solve problems on their own, they can use the Community Cloud to work together and share stuff. Some groups, like banks, have strict rules they need to follow. The Community Cloud helps make sure everyone follows these rules. What’s more, if different groups want to work on a project together, the Community Cloud gives them a common space to share everything they need, making their work smoother and more aligned.
For Shared Concerns: Think of groups in similar jobs, like banks or hospitals. They often need the same computer tools or have the same kind of problems. With a Community Cloud, they can work together and share what they have.
For Regulatory Compliance: Some industries have specific regulations. A community cloud can be designed to ensure that all its users are in compliance.
For Joint Ventures: When multiple organizations come together for a joint project or venture, they can use a community cloud to share resources, data, and applications that pertain to their shared goal.
Features of Community Cloud:
Shared Infrastructure Costs: The Community Cloud distributes infrastructure expenses across its member organizations. This sharing mechanism often results in reduced individual costs compared to setting up a dedicated private cloud. Of course that’s not always the case.
Customizable Service Offerings: Unlike other online spaces that offer the same things to everyone, a Community Cloud lets groups choose and change tools to fit exactly what they need.
Enhanced Security Protocols: Community Clouds incorporate security features designed to cater to its member base. While they might not offer the exclusivity of a private cloud, they do emphasize security measures that align with the collective needs of its community.
Optimized Performance Capabilities: Community Cloud infrastructures are designed to be fine-tuned for tasks and operations that are prevalent among its member organizations, ensuring smoother and efficient operations.
Built-in Collaboration Tools: The structure and design of Community Clouds inherently promote inter-organization collaboration, paving the way for innovations and the exchange of best practices among its members.
Why Have a Community Cloud?
The digital world offers various cloud solutions: public, private, hybrid, and community clouds. Public clouds, like Google Cloud or AWS, offer a vast suite of services available to all, making them versatile but often generic. In contrast, private clouds are tailor-made for a single entity, offering specialized services and heightened security but at a higher cost.
Now, where does the Community Cloud fit in? It combines the best of both worlds. Community Cloud is like a shared private cloud for groups with common goals. It provides the customization and specialized services typical of a private cloud, but by serving multiple organizations with similar needs, it can distribute costs, making it more budget-friendly.
Unlike hybrid clouds, which mix and match public and private cloud features, a Community Cloud has a unified purpose, catering to the collective needs of its member organizations. This targeted focus means resources aren’t wasted on unnecessary features.
In short, if you’re part of a sector with shared challenges and requirements, choosing a Community Cloud means getting the tailored services of a private cloud without bearing the full cost alone. It’s the synergy of collaboration combined with economic efficiency.
Real-life Example of Community Clouds:
In the realm of healthcare within a particular state or region, each institution, be it a hospital or clinic, grapples with intricate demands tied to patient data storage, security protocols, and stringent regulatory standards. Imagining every individual hospital striving to build its own isolated digital storage system seems impractical. Here, a more collaborative approach comes into play. These healthcare entities can converge to adopt a unified digital solution – a community cloud precisely crafted for their sector. This bespoke cloud not only ensures that the intricate nuances and demands of healthcare data are aptly addressed but also offers the advantage of cost-sharing. The financial burden becomes lighter as the infrastructure cost gets distributed among multiple users.
In essence, community clouds are like joint ventures. Groups come together for a shared digital space that meets their common needs, making it efficient and cost-effective for everyone involved.
What are the available Community Clouds Software?
While some platforms may offer free versions, scaling up or accessing additional features may incur costs. Always consult the specific vendor or software provider for the most up-to-date pricing and licensing information.
- Salesforce Community Cloud (paid): A platform designed for businesses to connect with their customers, partners, and employees in a personalized way.
- Moodle (free): Although it’s primarily an open-source learning management system (LMS), many institutions use it in a community cloud model, tailoring it to their collective needs.
- Elastx (paid): Offers both public and community cloud services and is particularly beneficial for companies within the European region.
- Jelastic (freemium): While the platform offers a community cloud setup for developers and small businesses, it comes with both free tiers and paid options depending on usage and features required.
- Microsoft Azure (paid): While Azure is primarily known as a public cloud platform, they offer solutions that can be tailored to community cloud setups. Pricing depends on the specific services and resources consumed.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) (paid): AWS, predominantly a public cloud service, can also be tailored for community cloud setups. Its cost is based on the specific services and resources used.
- OpenStack (free): An open-source cloud platform that organizations can use to set up community clouds. While the software itself is free, costs can arise from deployment, customization, and maintenance.
Community clouds are unique spaces in the digital realm that cater to specific groups with shared interests or objectives. It’s not as wide open as the public clouds we all might use for our photos or documents, nor as exclusive as a private cloud that big companies might have. Think of it as a special club online, a place where like-minded organizations or groups can gather, share resources, and work together securely. Just as each club or team at school has its unique clubhouse or meeting spot, in the digital world, that special spot is often a community cloud.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions):
What makes a community cloud different from other clouds?
A community cloud is exclusively for specific groups with similar needs, unlike a public cloud that’s open to everyone or a private cloud that’s reserved for one entity.
Why would an organization choose a community cloud?
Community clouds offer tailored resources and shared costs, making them cost-effective. They can be more secure than public clouds while being more affordable than private clouds.
Is a community cloud safe?
Yes, community clouds are designed with security in mind. They cater to groups that might have similar security requirements, ensuring data and resources are protected.
Where is the data in a community cloud stored?
Data in a community cloud is stored in data centers, depending on hosting on a 3rd party or self host, which can be located in one specific location or spread out across various regions. The exact location(s) often depends on the needs and agreements of the community members,
Can I set up my own community cloud?
Setting up a community cloud requires specific technical expertise and the right platform, like OpenStack or VMware. However, for most people, joining an existing community cloud tailored to their needs is often more practical.
How do I access a community cloud?
Just like accessing any online service, you’d need credentials (like a username and password) to access the community cloud. This ensures only the intended group or community can access the shared resources.
Can anyone access the community cloud?
No, access to a community cloud is restricted to its member organizations and designated individuals. Credentials (like usernames and passwords) are required to ensure security and exclusivity.
Is the community cloud always connected to the internet?
Typically, yes since the data server runs 24/7. Community clouds are primarily online for easy accessibility and data sharing. However, the exact connectivity setup may vary depending on the implementation.
Do we need a subscription plan for community clouds?
Most community clouds operate on a subscription or contractual basis. Members usually agree to a recurring fee (monthly, annually) or a usage-based pricing model, while there do have open sources software like Openstack for example, are free but required manual setup.