Healthcare organizations use hundreds of applications. Data exchange, backup and disaster recovery, human resources, operational and financial departments, desktop virtualization and other areas all function with the help of an app. What does it take for an app to function flawlessly?
Software as a service has become a preferred way to deploy many healthcare apps because of its cost-effective and convenient subscription models. To provide the industry-specific solutions healthcare organizations require, SaaS providers must have the hardware and software to leverage the latest mobile, cloud and analytic technology.
Today’s healthcare organizations demand information in real time, all the time. Any failure on the SaaS provider’s part could impact patient care or hospital operations. Downtime also negatively affects the SaaS provider’s productivity.
“Storage is at the core of a SaaS provider's business,” said Geoff Hough, senior director of service provider solutions for Pure Storage. “They also have service level agreements they have to deliver. If they don’t meet the terms, they pay the penalty. So, SaaS providers have to architect their applications, and construct their IT infrastructure, intelligently.”
If you caught a glimpse of a SaaS company’s cost-of-goods-sold report, Hough said you would see mainly IT costs: servers, storage, co-location, and data center investments and IT personnel costs. “Get that wrong, and your profitability declines,” he said.
Many SaaS companies embrace all-flash storage for how it benefits their customers as well as their own business. A SaaS company may not know today how its healthcare customers’ workloads will scale and change over time, but it does know it needs the flexibility to address those needs on the fly. Its storage solution affects how well it provides its service.
SaaS providers have to achieve high IOPS and ultra-low latency to best serve healthcare organizations. Healthcare customers demand zero downtime, and most have data-intensive environments. These customers also have strict regulatory requirements, from meaningful use compliance to security measures. The software they use has to behave flawlessly in demanding situations.
All-flash storage delivers at least 10 times greater performance than legacy hard disk drives. That high performance comes with an average latency of less than one millisecond, even in mixed workload environments.
“Low latency means that every single transaction, every single customer, is going to have this fantastic experience,” Hough said. “Not some, not most, but every one.” Low latency also benefits a customer’s legacy apps that may not be built for today’s infrastructure. The SaaS provider’s storage ensures legacy apps have the same reliability as new software.
Productive software development
SaaS providers, whether it's a traditional software provider with SaaS offerings or a dedicated SaaS company, develop software. Simple enough. An effortless infrastructure aids developer productivity, which allows SaaS companies to get products to market faster ― the name of the game in the software industry. "They can test more, test better, and capture bugs and issues early," said Hough.
All-flash storage includes tools and APIs that allow DevOps teams to leverage data copies easily and efficiently. Replicated snapshots, integration with containers and databases, software development kits, and automation and orchestration tools that integrate with virtualization platforms all make developers’ jobs easier without an impact on performance.
“The alternative is to make traditional copies of your data, which takes a lot of time and resources, and maybe the developer gets it by the end of the week,” said Hough. “Here, it’s a mouse click.”
Even small changes in IT costs can have a big impact on a SaaS company’s bottom line. All-flash storage lowers operational costs by using less energy and floor space than legacy HDD. Through inline deduplication and compression, all-flash arrays can reduce storage footprint by a ratio of at least 5-to-1.
Purchasing models for flash storage also provides cost benefits over time. SaaS companies effectively don’t buy the same terabyte twice when upgrading. They keep their technology up to date for less than it would cost to buy new equipment.
Security and compliance are important concerns for SaaS companies and healthcare organizations alike. Lost data or a breach can mean a lost SaaS customer. For the healthcare organization, it can mean federal violation.
In March 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights ordered North Memorial Health Care of Minnesota to pay a $1.55 million fine for violating HIPAA rules. The breach report indicated that someone stole an unencrypted, password-protected laptop from an employee’s locked vehicle, putting the protected health information of more than 9,000 people at risk.1
Data-at-rest encryption ensures data remains protected whether it’s moving through a network or not. Enhanced security features give SaaS providers peace of mind when they share responsibility for protecting sensitive patient data.
Healthcare SaaS providers face unique performance, reliability and security challenges. A powerful foundation helps them meet customers’ needs ― every time.
“A SaaS provider’s factory is its IT infrastructure,” said Hough. “If you get it right, you can have great growth margins.”
1. Bernie Monegain, “OCR settles two HIPAA breach suits totaling $5.5 million with North Memorial Healthcare, Feinstein Institute,” Healthcare IT News, March 18, 2016.