Virtualization News

Software-Defined Networking Advances Health IT Connectivity

Software-defined networking gives health IT infrastructure administrators better control and visibility over advanced network technology.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations are integrating health IT infrastructure solutions using virtualization to more easily manage processes and take the strain off network hardware. More organizations are also using software-defined networking (SDN) solutions to makes IT systems more simplified and flexible.

Research and Markets analysts predict that the SDN market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 48 percent through 2025 due to the need to make IT systems smaller and easier to control.

The report identifies healthcare as one of the verticals most likely to deploy SDN technology. As healthcare organizations adapt to electronic health records (EHRs) and cloud computing, networks need to be able to handle the increased amount of traffic.

SDN functions using abstraction, simplifying the complexity of a computer system by arranging and suppressing the more complex features below the operation level. Programmers operate the SDN through a simplified interface, which automates the complex features and allows the programmer to focus on simpler functions.  

Converging health IT systems gives IT administrators more control over their network environment. Larger healthcare organizations need to have complete visibility of their wide area network (WAN), especially when it comes to mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), and remotely accessed cloud environments.

WANs extend over a large geographical area and are used to exchange data among network users.  They transmit data between local area networks (LANs) and connect LANs together to form a larger network. Enterprise WANs are typically built for a specific organization and are private.

A report published last year by Webtorials found that one of the most demanded WAN services was having access to the public cloud and virtual desktops.

Typically, enterprise IT professionals need to give up some level of control over data when using a public cloud solution. By deploying a better way to control access and a more efficient way to connect users to public cloud services, IT administrators won’t sacrifice security or any more visibility of over organization data.  

Demand for a better way to access the public cloud has peaked interest in software-defined networking (SDN) in the WAN or SD-WAN. 

SD-WAN centralizes the control function into a SDN controller and the controller abstracts the user’s private network services from the underlying IP network. This enables the user to operate their private network services through a centralized policy. SD-WAN is flexible and can adapt more easily to changing network conditions and bandwidth demands during peak hours.

The Webtorials report indicated that the two biggest factors driving interest in SDN were better utilization of network resources and the ability to perform traffic engineering with an end-to-end view of the network. While utilizing network resources can be experienced by implementing SDN in the LAN or the WAN, end-to-end network visibility can only be achieved by implementing SDN in the WAN.

SDN has been slower to catch on in healthcare compared to other industries because of the general hesitation surrounding newly evolved technology, especially in the virtualization realm.

A ZK research report found that healthcare organizations in particular are maintaining technology that isn’t the most advanced. Legacy technology that is proven to perform tasks securely, is viewed as safer because of the notion that drastic IT infrastructure changes will disrupt the network.

The continued adoption of connected and IoT devices as part of health IT infrastructure requires organizations to accommodate these types of connections with more adaptable, controlled, and advanced network technology. Legacy network monitoring and management cannot handle the rise in traffic or the higher volume of remote access.

Healthcare organizations need to continue to enhance their networks to meet the standards expected by users. Poor and legacy network solutions can result in long wait times for tests and diagnostics, patient admission delays, and coordination miscommunications between clinicians.

The increase of records and other data accessed via the cloud makes unreliable WAN a severe threat to operations and the quality of patient care.


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