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May 13, 2016

What is a theme cloud? The big news in cloud computing of late has been the evolution of capabilities inside of cloud that go horizontal as well as vertical. These vertical capabilities lead to the next important stage of cloud's evolution: the theme cloud.

Theme clouds: A tailored approach to cloud computingTheme clouds are tailor-made environments that fill needs in a particular industry or provide a critical business function such as reconciliation or forecasting, or are configured to operate in a specific country or region, all with unique needs. The fundamental benefit for theme clouds is that they provide surgical precision when it comes to business functionality.

They pay off for customers by providing industry- and company-specific applications and services that improve performance of core processes, thus supporting speedier time to innovation and greater cost efficiencies.

Proprietary clouds are largely built to operate horizontally rather than vertically, so users can be left hungry for more power and sophistication in their core processes. Theme clouds remedy that problem, and add a host of additional benefits including off-the-shelf availability, near zero customization, a proven rapid-launch mechanism and an unbeatable price-point.

Theme clouds: Industry examples

The insurance sector is faced with unprecedented challenges due to rapid changes in regulatory mandates, making it difficult to comply using age old billing systems. As part of a vertical-driven theme, an integrated billing cloud platform can deliver holistic coverage of complex pricing scenarios with corresponding revenue recognition principles; thereby offering data centricity to arrest revenue leakages.

While an ERP cloud project leaves out the industry-specific core processes, with a theme cloud approach, where the vertical apps, horizontal apps, multiple services and infrastructure are readily available and with no customization required, a project can be completed in much less time with much higher functional coverage. It could take as little as four to six months to get most of the workloads on cloud.

Focused clouds aren't the only approach to bridging the deep versus wide challenge. Just about every enterprise cloud provider offers a vertical industry solution, be it for insurance, healthcare or retail. A new wrinkle is also coming from platform companies that partner with specific vendors to develop verticals inside their ecosystems.

These can be very powerful answers for some companies. But they have their limitations. Vertical cloud apps are still somewhat underpowered for what sophisticated industry players need to do in their change-on-a-dime competitive environments. As for platform offerings, they are as strong or as weak as the surrounding proprietary platform.

Theme clouds are a different breed, satisfying a strong demand for more industry-specific applications design, nestled within a powerful, flexible, highly tailored cloud environment, and topped up with critical core Business Process-As-A-Service (BPaaS) capabilities.

Many leading companies that have several IT systems at their disposal, depend heavily on mind-blowing spreadsheets and an equally enigmatic Project Management Office (PMOs) to run the planning/scheduling tasks for their multi-billion dollar projects. How about offering such critical PMO services as the BPaaS component within a 'capital projects' theme cloud? The construction, utilities and oil & gas industries run such large-valued capital projects, an integrated cloud environment covering project & contract management, cost estimation, pricing and quoting, building information modelling, ERP, reports and dashboards and core business process services, all combined and charged 'as-a-service' can be a strategic choice for increased efficiency.

Leading global system integrators have a distinct advantage here to conceptualize, design and develop theme clouds based on decades of hands-on service experience in individual domains and industries. Solutions will be designed that align the client's needs with applications, middleware, infrastructure and BPaaS. Then that whole bundle is built specifically on cloud and made ready for quick availability to the client.

The approach we take at TCS Oracle Practice is an 'apps-down' design, a 'platform-oriented' development and an 'open' integration to unify the best-of-breed Oracle products and solutions over a common cloud construct. Such theme-based propositions give customers comfort that their partner's complementary strengths bring in the best of both worlds – domain precision of an 'on-premise' and elasticity of a 'cloud'.

Is your organization using theme clouds? If so, I look forward to your experiences and comments here.

Suranjan Chatterjee is the Global Head for TCS' Cloud Apps, Microservices & API unit. Suranjan is currently responsible for driving business growth for the TCS' Cloud Apps Practice, delivering digital transformation services covering PaaS/API innovations to global customers, and leading the strategic initiatives to develop next-gen application modernization & integration service offerings on Cloud. 


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