Bruce Friedman, of Lab Soft News, ruminates on the coming of the serverless company and, in an interesting twist, suggests that the emerging utility computing industry may end up organized along vertical lines, with the big utilities having subsidiaries specializing in providing services to different industries. Freidman’s particular interest is the health care business:
Healthcare IT has traditionally lagged about a decade behind computing in other corporate sectors. However, it seems to me inevitable that hospital EMRs, LISs, RISs, and other information systems will eventually run on rented servers rather than on hardware owned and managed by the hospitals themselves. In time, the potential cost savings will be irresistible. It also occurs to me, however, that hospital executives would never be able to tolerate using, say, an Amazon server farm or “computing cloud” because of the perception that healthcare computing is different than corporate computing or e-commerce.
Therefore, I envision specialized companies, or even subdivisions of existing companies like Amazon or Google, that will have “healthcare” in their names and will serve only the healthcare industry. In this way, they will be able offer an array of services specifically tailored to the needs of their healthcare clients. Paramount, of course, will be non-stop computing, rapid response time/disaster recovery, and iron-clad data security/confidentiality. Frankly, these demands will not be that different than those demanded by many current e-business customers but I am sure that the perception of specialized services will be comforting to the hospital executives.
The verticalization of the cloud would provide marketing benefits, as Friedman notes, while also providing a possible means of addressing issues of information security crucial to industries such as health care and financial services. It might provide a regulatory stepping stone between private systems and a shared grid. Even if the underlying processing grid was shared, vertical offerings would also make sense for industries characterized by highly specialized applications, like retailing.
UPDATE: A commenter on Friedman’s post notes that the vertical health-care cloud is already well established, at least for the critical function of data storage and retrieval: “InsiteOne, a healthcare imaging storage provider, currently has over one billion image files stored for over 400 hospitals who pay a fee for each stored file which can be accessed at any time for referral. The vertical cloud continues to get bigger with time and healthcare is joining this cloud in even greater numbers. You can look at server utilization now in the same light as your electric, water, and other utilities services.”