Hybrid clouds fuel choices for health IT

Many healthcare companies are using a range of infrastructure services to meet their changing IT needs. This usually begins with storing data in an in-house data center then moving to collocation in an outsourced data center. This then may lead to a managed service; and later move to a cloud - such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform - and eventually to a hybrid cloud.

The notion of stages infers a complete transition over time, but healthcare companies may find that utilizing a variety of options is the best long-term approach. This is especially true with legacy systems which cannot easily take advantage of virtualization and flexible architectures.

Not all databases will operate efficiently in a virtualized cloud environment, and may need to remain “local” in a secure managed data center while their apps live in the cloud. Many healthcare applications use a hybrid architecture – accessing information from within a collocation facility and using a public cloud for alternative workloads (or applications).

The hybrid cloud infrastructure allows for swift expansion of computing capabilities while maintaining some local data and applications within a more traditional IT environment. The hybrid cloud infrastructure approach allows companies to leverage their existing infrastructure and retain control of sensitive data in-house while using the cloud to realize cost savings and scale.

Hybrid cloud infrastructures also can help address specific challenges faced by the healthcare industry, including exceeding current facility capacity, increasing application criticality, sensitivity to capital expenditures and increasing data demands. One key area impacting healthcare is the increasing number of acquisitions required to fill gaps in business needs, which further complicates the application integration requirements.

For healthcare companies, finding the right vendor along this path is critical. Vendor considerations include geographical capabilities, network carrier options, power, resiliency, and security.  In addition, healthcare providers should adhere to HIPAA Omnibus regulations and the vendor’s willingness to enter into a Business Associate Agreement for the storage of electronic patient information (ePHI) a top priority. 

Look for core capabilities with infrastructure specialization, strong service level agreements, and professional services capabilities when seeking an IaaS provider.

Healthcare companies should also look to service providers who can differentiate themselves with hybrid solutions within one facility, enabling a seamless hybrid approach. They should take advantage of the expertise these service providers have to share best practices on migration to a new IaaS platform. This is especially true early in the application development process, when strategy and architecture planning allows for optimal use of the appropriate IaaS model to both perform the required task securely and accommodate growth.

While cloud options are a hot topic, the middle ground of a hybrid solution may be the best approach for many healthcare companies.