Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a software-defined IT infrastructure that virtualizes all of the elements of conventional "hardware-defined" systems. HCI further advances the simplification of IT by integrating storage and storage management with compute and networking into a single software solution or appliance, thus enabling the adoption of cloud-based computing.
In today’s context, healthcare organizations and providers are looking to reduce the number of platform vendors they use to simplify their IT infrastructure. This enables them to reallocate technical support and maintenance spending to invest in more innovative IT initiatives that will meet the business and clinical demands of healthcare transformation.
Nutanix speaks to Lynne A. Dunbrack, research vice president for IDC Health Insights, as she explains how a good HCI infrastructure can bring about improvements in operations as well as reduce costs for healthcare providers/organizations.
Q. What role is cloud playing to enable transformation across healthcare?
A. To rapidly support new business and reimbursement models of value-based health, IT needs to be flexible, agile, scalable, and available. While healthcare organizations have been steadily embracing cloud computing, internal private cloud services are more often preferred to meet these demands, especially when clinical workloads are concerned.
IDC Health Insights research shows that healthcare organizations' top objectives for deploying cloud are focused on improving productivity (e.g., IT staff, uptime, performance, availability), lowering cost of service, and avoiding up-front infrastructure costs.
Q. What benefits does a multicloud computing environment and HCI strategy offer healthcare provider organizations?
Hyperconverged systems that combine storage, compute, and networking on a single platform create the foundation for internal private cloud services, which is attractive to many healthcare organizations that are not ready to move sensitive workloads to a public cloud.
A simplified IT environment allows IT staff to work on more critical IT initiatives than routine maintenance of legacy systems. Innovation is accelerated. Cloud-ready HCI enables healthcare organizations to reduce the time to deploy major IT initiatives such as cognitive computing and manage their demand on IT resources. Cost is another important benefit. The installation, configuration, management, and maintenance for a certified integrated system can be significantly less expensive compared with the alternative. HCI results in more shared IT resources and higher server utilization, thus consuming less physical floor space and, consequently, consuming less power and cooling.
Q. When should healthcare provider organizations select a private cloud or on-premise solution over a multicloud computing environment? Which workloads should run in which cloud environment?
The first step in evaluating which workloads to move to which environment is to determine which types of IT models will best suit the various needs of the healthcare organization — traditional, converged, or hyperconverged. The next step is to identify and prioritize which workloads should remain on-premise or in a private cloud because they include sensitive corporate data or protected health information and which workloads would benefit from being moved to a public cloud environment.
Typically, undifferentiated applications such as email or DevOps are good candidates for private or public cloud environments while mission-critical applications are kept on-premise in internal datacenters, which provide greater control. A private or public cloud environment may be considered for new solutions with limited sensitive data and that have a minimal impact on existing business processes as a means of experimenting with various cloud strategies.
Careful consideration must be given to local regulations concerning privacy and security to ensure appropriate data protection compliance. This is particularly important if the cloud service provider is storing or processing patient data in third-party countries.
Q. What recommendations do you have for healthcare provider organizations that are on the path to multicloud computing environments?
Once decisions have been made regarding which types of IT models to utilize and which workloads to move to which cloud environments, healthcare organizations should set controls by clearly defining service-level agreements (SLAs) with their cloud service providers.
Healthcare organizations need to fully understand the security measures followed by their cloud service providers. Do they have the appropriate level of security — policies, procedures, and technical security solutions — to provide the necessary data protection? IT staff should also have the necessary skills to manage service providers and hold them accountable to meeting agreed upon SLAs. This may be a new skill set for IT staff that are more used to procuring technology to be used on-premise and managing it themselves than managing outside service providers.
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