The community cloud is quickly becoming the more efficient way for enterprises to implement business-to-business connections. In the past, enterprises would create a VPN connection to each and every one of their business partners, which required working with many different partner IT shops with varying abilities. When I was working at a large financial company, setting up more than 500 B2B connections meant dealing with some small IT shops that did not have a clue about security practices or VPN connections. Often when we had outages, smaller companies were unable to provide support after hours to help restore the connection. But individual VPN connections were the best way to set up an isolated network connection to interface with business partners, suppliers and other supply chain partners.
Now many IT shops find it more practical to set up a community cloud to connect to more than five business partners. A community cloud allows you to have a common meeting place to exchange required information, and you no longer need to have untrusted partners connecting to your network — even if it was only to a DMZ.
I have set up two such community clouds: one for an insurance company and the other for a pharmaceutical company. We were able to set up lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) and security assertion markup language (SAM) access, and then we created a virtual private cloud (VPC) for each client to connect into. We then connected each of those VPCs to the community cloud. In this case, if a client connection to the community cloud goes down, it is no longer the host company’s problem.
But community cloud implementations may not be for every enterprise. Many enterprises are still working to build out their private clouds before they move to a hybrid cloud or connect to a community cloud. And when working with enterprises trying to implement a community cloud, the bulk of efforts often involves getting stakeholders to agree to the connection and not build out of a public cloud and connect to a SaaS provider.
What are your thoughts on using community clouds for B2B connections? Share your comments below or tweet us @TTintheCloud.