I’ve spoken separately with @chris and with Danyl Strype at the Open conf in the summer about this. The idea of developing some sort of cooperative cloud/hosting offer at sufficient scale that could potentially enable some of the larger co-ops, unions, and maybe even some public sector orgs to get on board is attractive, but there are significant hurdles. At the lower end of the scale there’s the option of some sort of common social brand so that customers and prospects are aware that they are looking at a cooperative hosting provider that is part of some sort of alliance or collective.
Moving up the scale to deliver a collectively-owned cloud is another matter, and for my money the approach there is to identify and open a dialogue with half a dozen potential clients that might be willing to buy in the right conditions, work with them to understand what their issues are, and get them to fund the project on the basis that when they become customers they’ll get their investment back with a return (maybe in terms of lower fees).
The big cloud providers appear to be making good profits so it may well be possible to be competitive in the space, despite the perceived high cost of entry, by using cooperative approaches.