100 years from now, when the historians look back at the beginning of the 21st Century and shake their heads in amazement that we hadn't yet figured out flying cars, one thing they should give us credit for is that we finally figured out how to scale... everything. Even though the promise of the Web as a center of knowledge has been overrun with rampant commercialism, sometimes commercial interests actually align with the delivery of knowledge.
Software, databases, customer relationship management… these are all key elements of information technology that haver been pushed into the cloud to be deployed "as-a-Service" (or *aaS). This follows the model of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Data-as-a-Service (DaaS), and the like. Other, more rudimentary, aspects of IT have already been deployed this way, to great effect: Witness how online bookseller Amazon now dominates cloud computing by introducing Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) a few years ago.
As the idea of a sharing and scaling services that were otherwise once local and isolated continues to spread, we are now seeing just about every function you can imagine being delivered as-a-service to any business who wants them.
The most recent example of this new *aaS trend is the release of the Vocus Marketing Suite, a hosted marketing service that enables small- to medium-sized businesses to access marketing tools and (more importantly) expertise for those SMBs to use.
Anyone, really, can toss together a bunch of tools to market with social media, email and press releases. A one-pane aggregate application could handle that. But using the publicly available big data that's readily available on the Internet, Vocus' new application is designed to push out very targeted information that pertains to a business' marketing goals.
Say a business wants to sell jewelry, outlined You Mon Tsang, Vocus' Senior Vice President of Products. The Marketing Suite will listen for keywords on social media channels to determine who's an influencer in the jewelry scene or maybe just which desperate significant other is out there looking to buy an anniversary gift fast.
If you're using email marketing, the tool will make sure you're not spamming potential clients, either in frequency or through the language you're using. Human editors will also step in to help craft messaging. The key to this new service making the expertise affordable to SMBs who might otherwise have to go it alone.
Big data, as mentioned, makes this all possible. In the past, marketing was sort of a gray area when it came to hard results. Using a new class of metrics, marketing's return on investment is now much more easily calculated, and results can be concretely measured.
There are some who would argue that some things still don't scale very well. Medical information and healthcare services seem to be one of them. Sure, you can go on to WebMD and find out how to treat the cold that seems to be coming on… but without medical expertise at your disposal, you may decide that you really have the bubonic plague. And while "the plague is upon us" has a nice historical ring, it also tends to be a bit alarmist.
Healthcare professionals don't scale terribly well online, if only because the medical arts depend, usually, on face-to-face contact between the patient and the caregiver.
This is not to say that some aspects of healthcare can't be found in *aaS. A new startup in Indiana called hc1.com, for instance, has created a very niche cloud approach to resource management for medical labs, so they can work with multiple providers and deliver analyses more efficiently.
As medical providers continue to work with government and market requirements to use electronic health records, vendors like ClearDATA are working the edges, delivering secure messaging and cloud computing services.
So healthcare and medical-sector services are finding their way into the cloud, though still more on the edges instead of a full-on approach. But after a few more years of medical-monitoring innovation, who's to say you won't someday get a text message that says "Stop eating that pastrami, your arteries are about to pop!"
The world around us, thanks to connectivity and much faster computing platforms, seems destined to push all manner of services on to the Internet, where they can be acquired on demand, without having to build your own infrastructure to support them. Distance learning, shopping, news gathering and many more are already there. Others are coming, and there's no telling how far the trend will go.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.