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Cloud Management Platforms Support Multiple Cloud Environments

Multiple cloud environments are a reality for many healthcare organizations and enlisting a cloud management platform can ease cloud management challenges.

cloud management platforms

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Organizations are introducing more healthcare cloud tools to their IT infrastructure, making the prospect of managing them a growing challenge. Selecting a cloud management platform (CMP) can give IT staff visibility and control over multiple cloud environments.

“CMPs provide a means for a cloud service customer to manage the deployment and operation of applications and associated datasets across multiple cloud service infrastructures, including both on-premises cloud infrastructure and public cloud service provider infrastructure,” according to the Cloud Standards Customer Council (CSCC). “CMPs provide management capabilities for hybrid cloud environments.”

Many healthcare organizations have hybrid or multicloud environments. The CSCC estimates that the average enterprise environment uses a combination of five or six cloud environments that can be a combination of private on-premises and public.  

“Hybrid cloud adoption has expanded the role of IT operations and created a demand for adaptable management tools capable of supporting the complexity of hybrid cloud deployments,” said the CSCC.

“The market for CMPs can be expected to increase alongside the predicted growth in use of hybrid cloud environments. The capabilities of CMP offerings are also expected to evolve to meet the increased complexity of the target environments and more sophisticated requirements from enterprise customers.”

READ MORE: How to Deploy, Manage Healthcare Multicloud Environments

Hybrid cloud and multicloud environments bring IT staff challenges that need to be managed, including governance, security, compliance, and performance.

Multiple cloud environments can make it hard for IT administrators to get a big picture of their environments and maintain quality cloud service for users.

Security is also a concern, especially for healthcare organizations, because data and applications are spread out over multiple cloud service models and cloud service providers. This makes it difficult to detect security threats quickly because there are too many areas that IT staff need to keep an eye on.

Maintaining HIPAA compliance is a large undertaking without the visibility a management platform provides. Performance can also be a challenge without a management platform because IT staff doesn’t have the visibility or control to optimally allocate resources. This results in latency and wasted resources.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a cloud broker is “an entity that manages the use, performance and delivery of cloud services, and negotiates relationships between cloud providers and cloud consumers.” CMPs act as a broker that can simplify management and optimize the utilization of resources.

READ MORE: How Healthcare Providers Can Benefit from Cloud Data Migration

According to the CSCC, all CMPs should provide:

  • Access and authorization management
  • Resource management across environments
  • Financial management relating to subscribed cloud services 
  • Integration with the relevant target cloud environments and enterprise internal systems
  • Service catalogs to support self-service provisioning or resource approvals 
  • Cloud brokerage – rules-based guidance for asset placement decisions

When assessing different CMP vendors, the CSCC suggests that organizations first ask themselves what their CMP is aiming to manage? What kinds of cloud environments already exist in the IT infrastructure?

Not every CMP vendor is going to offer the same services or integrate cloud environments the same way. Understanding what technologies and public cloud environments are supported by each CMP vendor is critical to selecting the right vendor.

The CSCC also suggests that organizations understand the capabilities each vendor can manage. Some organizations have more staff on-hand or more experience managing cloud environments, and some organizations may need more management capabilities be handled by the vendor.

“It is typical for IaaS capabilities to be managed, compute, storage and networking,” explained CSCC. “For compute, the question extends to whether VMs are managed or whether containers (Docker, etc.) are also managed. Some CMPs support PaaS and SaaS services as well, in which case it is necessary to understand which PaaS environment(s) and which SaaS services are supported.”

READ MORE: Understanding Healthcare Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

The CSCC also advises organizations to map out their deployment plan before selecting a vendor to make sure that the vendor will be able to support each organization’s unique environment.

The plan should include a close and established partnership with the vendor. This includes training staff and establishing a common goal. CMPs include new features so it’s important for IT staff to be comfortable and familiar with the vendor and the CMP tool.

Setting reasonable expectations and a timeline is also important to success. The CSCC suggests deploying a CMP in phases and integrating one cloud environment at a time. The phased approach should help the process be more organized and make testing more effective.

The phased approach should also help minimize the impact of how the CMP integrates with other tools. Working out these kinks early and gradually can help organizations get the most out of their CMP investment.

The inevitable growth of multiple cloud environments makes CMPs a critical management tool. As cloud environments continue to expand, organizations need the visibility and control CMPs offer to get the most out of their IT infrastructure.

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