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Understanding Healthcare Multicloud Challenges, Requirements

Healthcare multicloud can help organizations become more flexible, but managing multiple clouds can be a challenge for IT staff.

healthcare multicloud

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Organizations are seeking ways to add flexibility to the ways they store and retrieve data. Healthcare multicloud can be a solution for organizations looking to add more cloud scalability to their IT infrastructure.

Ninety percent of enterprise organizations plan to utilize multiple clouds as part of their IT infrastructure over the next several years, according to IDC research.

Multicloud is like 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 storage is that multicloud storage uses different cloud service models or providers for data. This is because different clouds are better suited for different tasks.

Multicloud service options strategically store data using multiple resources, allowing organizations to benefit from multiple data storage and access solutions.

READ MORE: How to Deploy, Manage Healthcare Multicloud Environments

A 2017 reportCollaborative 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 stated. “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 put applications into different clouds depending on how secure each application needs to be.

READ MORE: Healthcare Data Storage Options: On-Premise, Cloud and Hybrid Data Storage

“Individual applications are always on a single cloud, but the organization as a whole is multicloud. That’s a distinction that I don’t think is very well known among healthcare professionals that are new in their multicloud journey. It’s something they realize as they go through it,” Scalr CEO Sebastian Stadil told HITInfrastructure.com.

“There’s usually movement of an individual application through its lifecycle from one category to another,” he explained. “An application that starts out as low might end up as medium security over time. The way you handle that is you build an application to handle internal reporting.”

Applications can change security levels when different kinds of information is asked of them. A manager may decide that she wants a low security app to report on Social Security numbers use and location data. As soon as that application incorporates Social Security, it changes from a low security to a high security application.

Now that the application is high security, it needs to be taken from the public cloud and redeploy is somewhere else so that it’s compliant with the internal app policy and meets high security protocols.

“Organizations need to have the ability to redeploy their workloads and that it’s reasonably easy to do,” Stadil stated. “You need to make sure that whatever platform you’re using you can redeploy.”

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

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 understand 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.

Application-changing security levels and requiring different cloud environments can be a challenge to manage.

IDC research report authors predict that as cloud environments continue to become more complex, cloud management tools and processes may become outdated and struggle to maintain multicloud environments.

“Multicloud management innovators are assisting enterprise IT and DevOps teams in managing multiple clouds by supporting collaborative governance, automating provisioning using reusable, standardized process, tools, and SLAs, providing advanced, predictive performance analytics and capacity management, and streamlining chargeback, showback, and cost management activities,” IDC Research authors stated.

Multicloud management is a set of tools used to configure, provision, monitor, and optimize all types of public and private cloud services to give organizations a way to ensure constant security and compliance across the entire cloud infrastructure.

Multicloud management can be open source or proprietary, and can be deployed as hosted licensed software, software-as-a-service (SaaS) based subscriptions, or on-premises.

The report suggested that multicloud management supports a range of functionality, including cloud infrastructure configuration, provisioning, and life-cycle operations automation. Multicloud management also supports application performance monitoring, governance and policy management, operations and log analytics, and scheduling, migration, and automation optimization.

The adoption of multicloud infrastructure continues to increase, and healthcare organizations need to deploy management solutions to ensure all clinical data remains secure across all cloud deployments. The cloud service models need to have clearly defined, distinct purposes for organizations to fully benefit from multicloud infrastructure.

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