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How to Plan for a Healthcare Muilticloud Environment

Healthcare multicloud gives organizations the opportunity to balance their cloud environments based on what their applications require.

healthcare multicloud

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Planning a healthcare cloud environment can be challenging, especially when so many options exist and there is no clear answer on which cloud technique will best serve each unique health IT infrastructure demand. More organizations are looking to healthcare multicloud as a way to utilize a variety of cloud service providers (CSPs) for the different features offered.

Multicloud storage is similar to hybrid storage, but uses multiple clouds to perform different tasks.

Hybrid storage uses more than one cloud or server option, accessing data that is blended together between two or more infrastructure hosting solutions.

The main difference between hybrid and multicloud is that multicloud uses different cloud service models or providers for data because different clouds are better suited for different tasks.

A 2016 report — Collaborative and Secure Sharing of Healthcare Data in Multi-Clouds — outlines the need for cloud technology in healthcare and why multicloud technology may be beneficial.

“Cloud computing technology perfectly matches ‘big data’ challenges by providing nearly unlimited storage resources on demand,” the report states. “In healthcare, it is also gaining particular popularity by facilitating an inter-organizational medical data sharing environment.”

Data sharing among healthcare organizations for analytics purposes is one of the top factors for healthcare institutions considering multicloud.

“In [multicloud] architecture, medical records are created, maintained and retrieved by authorized users in cooperating health centers,” the report continued. “Mediating multicloud proxies will distribute and retrieve encrypted medical records to and from multiple data clouds in parallel.”

Organizations can choose to host applications in the cloud based on predetermined criteria. Different applications may have certain security requirements. These requirements can include how often the application is accessed, how frequently the application is backed up, or how long the data retention period is.

Because these apps are classified into different security levels, they can end up on different clouds. Low security applications are prime candidates for the public cloud, but high security applications typically need to be kept in the private cloud.

Organizations can also move applications to different CSPs as the security requirements change.

The multicloud service model is expanding rapidly across enterprises, which calls for tools to successfully manage multicloud environments.

The multicloud management market expected to grow from $939.3 million in 2016 to $3.431 billion by 2021 according to MarketsandMarkets. Avoiding vendor lock-ins, increasing agility and automation, and achieving the right level of governance are expected to increase growth.

While there are many benefits to multicloud, managing the different CSPs needs to be addressed before multiple clouds are introduced into the IT infrastructure.

This often includes deploying some kind of interface to give IT staff visibility and control over the multicloud. IT staff also need to be trained on the multicloud and different APIs each CSP uses, which can be time consuming and difficult, according to Scalr CEO Sebastian Stadil.

“It is advantageous for healthcare organizations to be able to get some engine software that presents a similar interface to all the cloud providers,” Stadil told HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview. “That way, whenever they want to redeploy an application across different cloud environments they don’t have to train new staff or they don’t have to go through learning a new platform.”

The interface does not have to make all clouds uniform, but it should take away the complexities of having staff move applications from AWS, to Google, to VMware.

Organizations also need to consider how many other systems each application is going to touch, such as backup or monitoring. Not every IT employee is going to have an understanding of each of these systems, which makes a tool for integrating applications in the multicloud with other IT systems critical for getting the integration done quickly and successfully.

CIOs and CTOs need to champion this mission to deploy an interface to manage multicloud environments to drive this digital transformation. But it can be a difficult investment for executives to understand. Without a high-level leader to influence this decision, it can be hard to move forward.

Stadil suggested that members of the IT staff pool their cloud knowledge and resources to determine what skills the department has and which cloud vendors make the most sense based on staff skills and understanding.

Understanding why an interface is needed and insourcing rather than outsourcing can unravel legacy IT infrastructure complexities as organizations continue to push their digital transformation.

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