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Hyperscale cloud providers are increasingly making headlines with the launch of new “industry cloud” platforms.

Industry clouds platforms create value for enterprises by bringing together traditionally separately purchased cloud services in a pre-integrated, but adaptable way. Industry clouds offer not just technical but also business capabilities that are specifically relevant to identified vertical industries. Leaders in this space will leverage composable approaches to create industry clouds that are both modular and maintainable.

These new solutions offer more adaptability than today’s software-as-a-service applications, more business functions than today’s infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service clouds and more innovation than today’s single-industry solutions. Industry cloud platforms are rapidly climbing up the innovation trigger slope on the 2022 Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, poised for transformational impact within five to 10 years. Here are some of the key drivers for adoption and challenges that must be addressed for industry cloud platforms to deliver significant business impact:

Industry cloud platforms must be composable

Broader cloud adoption within enterprises will require more targeted solutions that follow defined industry scenarios and processes, rather than technology-oriented solutions that enterprises must configure and integrate themselves. Emerging industry cloud platforms are supporting composability by leveraging innovative approaches such as packaged business capabilities or PBCs, data grids and fusion teams to accommodate faster change and platform adaptability. This can simplify the sourcing, implementation and integration process.

For example, the healthcare segment has been a front-runner in turning to industry cloud initiatives, driven by unprecedented change during the pandemic and the need for agility. These platforms combine:

  • A data fabric that provides connectors and industry-relevant models that help liberate siloed application data from operational systems.
  • A library of PBCs that can be used to create new digital experiences and composed applications, such as a tool to extract knowledge from clinical notes or an AI-powered conversational interface for patients.
  • Composition tools to build tailored digital experiences that meet clinical or operational workflow needs across a broad range of stakeholders.

In this way, industry clouds will have a lasting impact on cloud customers, blurring the lines between established SaaS, PaaS and IaaS cloud services.

Transformational benefits to emerge within five to 10 years

While industry cloud platforms have the potential to offer transformational benefits, the technology is still emerging. Thus, Gartner has placed industry cloud platforms on the “innovation trigger” slope in its 2022 Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, expected to reach mainstream adoption within five to 10 years.

Competition for industry clouds will come from multiple sources. In addition to hyperscale cloud providers, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management vendors, specialized independent software vendors and global system integrators will engage by offering both competitive and complementary industry cloud products and services.

Leading vendors in this space are expected to continue innovating to create more holistic and comprehensive industry offerings, which enterprises’ staff can recompose to meet unique requirements. Meanwhile, some enterprises are considering creating a dedicated industry cloud platform themselves, often in collaboration with leading technology providers.

To reach their full potential, industry clouds will need to evolve into something best described as ecosystem clouds, where enterprises can participate in shared processes, such as procurement, distribution and payment processing. This will be a step beyond the initial sharing of infrastructure, technology and functionality, toward a true industry platform model.

These solutions are not without their challenges. For example, industry clouds are at risk of following the same path as community clouds, where providers created a split-off version exclusive to a group of customers, that from that point onward needed to be maintained separately and lagged in making new functionality available. By following a modular approach using composable building blocks, industry cloud platforms can navigate around this risk.

Industry clouds can also be overwhelming, given the wide breadth of functionality they cover. Customers and providers must therefore be disciplined and not burn precious resources on fixing or replacing what is not broken. Implementing an industry cloud platform must be approached as adding an exoskeleton that brings new and improved capabilities, rather than an organ transplant that replaces functions that were already present.

Chief information officers looking to make industry cloud platforms available to their organization must assess the industry-specific features promoted by cloud providers and distinguish between real technology or functionality offerings versus marketing messages. Consider that vendors choose different paths to add industry value. Some focus on compliance with industry regulations, some add analytical and AI capabilities to existing or partner-sourced functionality, and others invest in building or acquiring specific functional building blocks. Determine what approach aligns best with your organization’s strategic goals for cloud.

Be sure to also assess potential increased vendor lock-in risks from using a more unique solution against the benefits an industry cloud solution can bring for specific vertical use cases if compared to generic cloud solutions. Finally, establish communications with current technology and service providers about which industry cloud ecosystems they plan to support or envision joining in the future.

Gregor Petri is a vice president Analyst at Gartner Inc., covering industry and sovereign cloud strategies in the CIO Industries Research Group. Gartner analysts will provide additional insights on cloud trends at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2022, taking place Oct. 17-20 in Orlando, Florida.

Photo: Tama66/Pixabay

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