Logica has described cloud computing as “the railway of the 21st century”, claiming that the community clouds it is building with Microsoft will help to promote sharing and collaboration among like-minded companies.

Speaking in a joint keynote session with Microsoft's UK national technology officer Mark Ferrar at Cloud Expo Europe, Logica’s global CTO David King said that, just as the railways made it easier to move goods around the place during the last century, cloud computing makes it easier for companies and public sector companies to share information across geographical barriers.

“We’ve been talking about cloud now for 3 or 4 years. Everybody gets the technology end of things, and we’re also starting to the agility side of things,” said Ferrar. “The sharing part is where we’re starting to see new business models forming, and new ways of delivering either business or other public sector services by through the sharing of information.”

IT outsourcing firm Logica announced its strategic partnership with Microsoft last January, to offer cloud solutions to its clients using Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform. The joint effort includes a client program, where both organisations partner with a select group of clients to design and launch cloud solutions.

According to King, many organisations have a “split personality” when it comes to sharing information in the cloud. “Just think how many companies have a policy that says, no we can’t commit to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn,” said King. “How many companies are comfortable sharing like that, or have clear policies on what isn’t ok to share and what is ok to share?”

King said that if organisations are to coexist in a cloud environment, they need to be able to trust their neighbours, and the benefits of sharing information should be made plain to them.

It is for this reason that Logica’s community clouds aim to bring together organisations operating in the same sector – for example an insurance company and its broker.

Logica’s platform-as-a-service essentially enables applications to be hosted in the cloud, and organisations to have a secure, private part of that. They can then pick and choose exactly what information to share with other inhabitants of that cloud.

“The technology has matured to a stage where you can use similar sorts of technology, whether you’re operating inside a private cloud or a public cloud,” said King. “Cloud starts to bring together these communities that exist in their private worlds together in the cloud to share information.”

Logica cited the example of Burgernet, a cloud-based service in the Netherlands that allows citizens to help solve crimes in their area. In the event of a crime being committed, citizens who have registered receive a request via their mobile phone to be on the lookout for a person or vehicle. They can report their information directly to the police, so that action can be taken immediately.

“It’s the flow of information easily deployed which helps society to grow more cohesively,” said King. “This collaboration is really about understanding how to redefine the rules under which it’s safe and right to share information, whether it’s private companies or public sector.”