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ClearDATA Debuts Healthcare Cloud Container Management Option

ClearDATA brings tighter management to healthcare containers with its containers-as-a-service solution.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- ClearDATA announced the release of its first fully managed containers-as-a-service (CaaS) solution to assist organizations and their DevOps teams quickly and securely deploy individual applications in a HIPAA-compliant healthcare cloud environment.

ClearDATA said the ongoing security application maintenance healthcare organizations face while testing and producing applications was a major reason why it is introducing the CaaS solution. The healthcare industry faces a significant burden developing and testing apps because of protected health information (PHI).

ClearDATA is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Healthcare Competency and Public Sector Partner. The CaaS solution works with Amazon ECS, a container management service, which isolates a HIPAA compliant environment for secure building, testing, and deployment.

Containers give developers the freedom to create, test, and deploy apps without worrying about security.

"Containers offer developers and IT administrators the ability to focus on writing code and accelerating their healthcare business—not maintaining a secure infrastructure," ClearDATA CEO Darin Brannan said in a statement. "Our collaboration with AWS enables healthcare organizations to quickly deploy services and apps in a healthcare-fortified AWS environment."

Virtual containers act much like they do in the physical world, by separating data from other data based on predetermined characteristics. Containers segregate hardware within a host machine for a specific purpose or provide the means for storing data in different containers, based on an organization’s need. Containers can be used with physical servers and virtual servers, depending on data management and maintenance strategies.

Data stored in virtual containers is easier to move from one environment to another and they provide an added layer of security. Virtual barriers separate containers and prevent penetration from one container to another on the server. If a lower-clearance container is hacked, the hacker is limited to the information in that container and cannot access other containers on the server.  

Containers are ideal for healthcare application development because they isolate application development environments. Developers can test and deploy apps in environments that include code, runtime, system tools, and system libraries, eliminating conflicting software and security environments. This ensures that software will run the same every time regardless of the environment, making it ideal for healthcare app development.

A Cloud Foundry survey conducted last year found that many healthcare organizations are currently running, or are looking to deploy, containers as part of their health IT infrastructure. Survey respondents found that organizations are using containers for app development, sharing resources, versioned runtime environments, operating system environments, and replacing 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,” the 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.”

Researchers concluded that there is definitive value in container deployment for enterprise level organizations. IT decision makers who responded to the survey have their eyes on containers if they have not already embraced them. They explained that they had future plans to include containers in their IT infrastructure within the next several years.

Containers are not limited to app development and deployment, and are used in other virtualization IT infrastructure solutions.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI) both use containers to separate data accessed by users from the endpoint device or thin client.

Containers are more secure by design, which makes them an appealing choice for healthcare organizations. The isolation containers offer make it easier for vendors to ensure application security is HIPAA-compliant because the environment does not depend on other infrastructure solutions to function.

Currently, organizations are faced with the inevitable future of virtualization and containers, but are charged with integrating them into legacy health IT infrastructures. While legacy solutions may function well under certain conditions, introducing virtualization may meet network bandwidth restrictions or other initial incompatibility restrictions. This could make a container management solution an essential part of deployment.

Managing containers through the cloud in a CaaS solution gives organizations more visibility and control over the containers.