IBM is now offering a set of customized clouds for specific industries and line-of-business buyers. The tech giant announced Thursday an expansion of its Cloud Consulting Services portfolio that provides ready-made cloud services designed for such industries as insurance or human resources.
The company said that cloud services have previously mostly focused on a “one size fits all” approach, where a menu of online computing services were available on a usage pricing model. But IBM’s move into templated, industry-specific solutions, coupled with such recent developments as Salesforce’s new, business-to-customer Salesforce One platform, indicate a new wave of tailored cloud services that offer business-specific application needs, not only generalized IT services. Other companies, such as Adobe and Salesforce, already provide cloud services targeted at such needs as those of marketing departments.
The IBM fast-start solutions are hosted on a private cloud using technology acquired by the company when it purchased global hosting company SoftLayer in the summer. Big Blue’s Global Business Services manages the solutions, which are targeted at banking, insurance, retail, telecom, and energy/utilities. According to IBM, the targeted applications can now be deployed in hours or days, instead of weeks or months.
Health Insurance Services
One timely example: the IBM Insurance Service Hub Cloud for health insurance, which provides connections to such data providers as clinics or doctors’ offices, or to patients’ mobile devices. At a time when the entire health industry is moving toward more efficient processes as it digests health reform, this targeted cloud provides such services as invoicing, claims processing and reimbursement.
There is also an analytics tool for semantic analysis of diagnostic texts, which provide assistance to doctors’ ability to diagnose conditions. IBM’s Watson supercomputer, made famous by its live TV defeat of expert human contestants on the Jeopardy game show, is being developed by the company for use as an on-demand expert service for doctors. This announcement of customized cloud solutions, however, does not specifically mention Watson.
In the realm of human resources, the new solutions include a HR cloud accelerator that can provide such services as talent management processes, compensation and succession planning, and workforce analytics.
Although it’s not industry-specific, IBM launched in June a set of cloud solutions for C-suite executives that was designed to boost innovation around customer experience. A suite for Chief Marketing Officers offers tools through the IBM Marketing Cloud, for instance, and a Watson-based service, the Watson Engagement Advisor, provides data crunching so that marketing and sales executives can better understand trends in their customer service, marketing and sales departments. Other suites were specifically created for the needs of executives in customer care, procurement, supply chain, legal and finance.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., pointed out that IBM is not only a heavyweight in services, hardware and software, but it “already has established relationships with insurance companies, HR departments” and other targeted industries and units.
She added that similar industry-specific cloud-based services will be undertaken by Google and others. But, DiDio noted, Google, which recently lowered its cloud prices and upped its performance to compete with IBM, Amazon and Microsoft, is a relative newcomer in services compared to “IBM’s company history of more than a hundred years.”