HITInfrastructure

Virtualization News

HIT Applications Management Eased by Containers as a Service

Containers-as-a-Service models allow for better HIT application management by providing a framework for developers and IT staff.

Source: Thinkstock

- As healthcare organizations move toward virtualized health IT infrastructure solutions, containers-as-a-service (CaaS) are becoming a popular option deploying and managing containers, HIT applications, and clusters.

A recent Research and Markets report estimates that the CaaS market will grow at a CAGR of 34 percent through 2023.

The transition to hybrid cloud, faster and more flexible deployment, and cost savings are the main driving factors for CaaS adoption across all major industries, according to report authors. Increased adoption over the next five years will drive vendors to develop better and more effective tools.

Deploying CaaS takes some strain off of IT departments. Instead of building and deploying containers in the health IT infrastructure, developers are provided a framework to deploy and manage containers.

CaaS options make it easier for developers and IT departments to work together because containers and clusters are provided as a service. The CaaS service model simplifies the development process while providing IT departments with an enabled container deployment service with security and governance tools built in.

Deploying custom containers in a health IT infrastructure can be complex, and many organizations cite lack of skilled IT staff as a reason why they have not adopted containers.

The CaaS service option eases the development process by providing a framework, calling for fewer developers. Organizations can use the managed service instead of hiring on-premise developers. 

The healthcare industry has a particular interest in containers as organizations build more apps for workflow operations and mobile initiatives. Containers are more secure by design than several other mobile deployment options, which makes them appealing for HIPAA compliance and protecting patient information.

Containers provide naturally increased security by separating data. Containing access to PHI by clearance level or department protects data in other containers. While the data in the breached container is still compromised, the other containers are virtually separated and unaware of each other, making cross-penetration impossible.  

Virtual containers act much like they do in the physical world, by separating data from other data based on predetermined characteristics. When migrating from one cloud storage model to another, it’s much easier to move data if it is contained in one place or separated from data that does not need to be moved.

When data is contained, developing applications to access that data becomes easier because it’s already isolated from unrelated data. Containers can be duplicated, moved, and act independently of each other. Isolating information in containers gives it an extra level of security that appeals to healthcare organizations.

A survey conducted by Cloud Foundry late last year found that enterprises are increasingly using containers for app development, sharing resources, versioned runtime environments, operating system environments, and to replace virtual machines.  

“As these organizations search for tools to enable their digital transformation, they increasingly land on containers as a technology to enable that shift to cloud native application architectures,” Cloud Foundry survey authors stated. “Organizations are moving from the use of containers as a means of increasing density in existing infrastructure, to using them to increase the velocity of application development as well as the scalability of applications.”

While containers offer healthcare organizations many benefits, fully adopting and integrating them into a health IT infrastructure can present several challenges.

Cloud Foundry survey respondents stated as organizations continue to undergo digital transformation of their infrastructures, the role of containers will evolve and affect more aspects of the infrastructure.

The survey concluded that there is definitive value in container deployment for enterprise level organizations. IT decision makers who responded to the survey said they are eyeing containers if they have not already embraced them, with some citing future plans to include containers in their IT infrastructure within the next several years.