Cloud Solutions for SMEs

Cloud-Lösungen für den Mittelstand
Foto: Ludmilla Parsyak, © Fraunhofer IAO

From left to right: Prof. Armin Heinzl, Prof. Anette Weisbecker, Institutsleiter Prof. Wilhelm Bauer, Wirtschaftsministerin Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Dr. Jürgen Jähnert

“Cloud Mall Baden-Württemberg” forges trust in cloud services for small and medium-sized enterprises

Cloud computing applications offer small and medium-sized enterprises many options for cutting costs and unburdening their IT systems. Yet when it comes to storing company data off premises, security concerns frequently outweigh the benefits. Fraunhofer IAO and its partners are demonstrating successful real-life examples and flexible solutions via the “Cloud Mall Baden-Württemberg,” which launched in Stuttgart on March 30, 2017.

Despite all the euphoria surrounding the potential digitalization and the rapid development of new technologies offer, SMEs in particular are often reluctant to make decisive changes to their existing IT constellations. Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Economics, Employment and Housing Construction launched the Cloud Mall BW with the aims of offering a community platform for cloud computing users and providers from different industries and reducing the hurdles to joining the cloud. “Cloud computing is one of the most important digitalization trends. The Cloud Mall Baden-Württemberg project, which is receiving nearly 4.6 million euros in funding from the Ministry of Economics, is specially designed to help SMEs tap the potential of cloud computing and strengthen their competitiveness,” said Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut at the opening event.

Real-life examples illustrate added value for users and providers

Using eight real-life examples ranging from human-robot interaction to the implementation of virtual reality in multi-project management, representatives from various SMEs in the region demonstrated how they are already successfully using cloud computing. These examples highlight for instance, how cloud services can help grow a startup’s IT setup as the company and its structure expand. Or how a small solar technology company can use cloud services to remotely and automatically monitor and maintain its customers’ photovoltaic systems. Cloud Mall BW offers more than just best practices, however. It also offers providers and users of cloud services with numerous opportunities for utilization and participation. In addition to a cloud community, which enables product and service providers to offer suitable cloud services and users to choose cloud services that best suit their requirements, the platform offers a space where all participants can exchange knowledge and experience. At the opening event at the Fraunhofer Institute Center Stuttgart, professor Anette Weisbecker, deputy director of Fraunhofer IAO, explained that “flexible and secure IT infrastructures are a strategic success factor for SMEs. With the Cloud Mall BW initiative, we are fostering a dialogue about cloud computing and are using practical examples to illustrate the options cloud services create.”

Sector-specific pilot scenarios make cloud services transparent

To build up SMEs’ trust in cloud solutions, the Cloud Mall BW is creating sector-specific cloud offers that cover the many individual needs that companies have and thus increase acceptance among the respective target groups. The suitability of offers is being examined in the pilot scenarios for four sectors. The target groups for the pilot scenarios are startups and small companies, retail trading companies and manufacturing companies with a focus on either optimizing products or developing innovative products and services. The scenarios explore typical use cases and illustrate these using what are known as cloud ecosystems. To create a transparent and trustworthy offer for providers and users alike, all cloud services are subject to established quality requirements, regardless of whether they feature cloud-based software or hardware. “We see Cloud Mall BW as an opportunity to test out other solutions, build up trust in cloud technologies among the SME target group, to implement these technologies and offer them sustainably,” said Dr. Jürgen Jähnert, managing director of bwcon GmbH and head of the project.

Survey identifies points of focus for cloud services

The Cloud Mall BW’s range of services is based on a survey of cloud service users and providers, which the project team used to identify focus areas, define hurdles, and to compare these with existing offers. The results are now being taken up in the pilot applications.

Interested companies are invited to enlist the help of the Cloud Mall BW. More information about ways to participate and register is available on the webpage listed.

Cloud Mall BW: A brief overview of target groups and offers

Cloud Computing offers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a vast array of options for creating real added value with regard to the digitalization of business practices and the development of new offers.

Cloud Mall BW brings this potential and these options together on one platform – cloud service providers can position their products and services in open, end-to-end and industry-specific cloud ecosystems and users can select the cloud services relevant to them.

This involves examining further approaches for increasing SMEs’ trust in cloud solutions. Four sector- and application-specific cloud ecosystems are being established and evaluated within the framework of four pilot scenarios:

  • startups / small companies
  • retail trading companies
  • manufacturing companies – optimizing production (Industrie 4.0)
  • manufacturing companies – developing innovative offers (smart products/services).

The aim is to reduce the hurdles a company can face when implementing and using trusted cloud services. Cloud Mall BW users will also be offered the option of a custom configuration of their IT resources. Software as a Service affords users the convenience of booking or canceling services to match capacity. Other advantages include use of resources independent of location and the flexibility this offers. Cloud Mall BW promotes regional services and helps providers and users of cloud services located in Baden-Württemberg on their journey into the digital future.

The Cloud Mall BW project consortium brings together partners from research and practice: the Fraunhofer Institutes for Industrial Engineering IAO and for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, the Institute for Enterprise Systems (InES) at the University of Mannheim and bwcon.