Jun 01 2018

Data Center Automation Kicks Healthcare IT Silos to the Curb

A move to the cloud had impacts on the IT workforce that extend beyond simplifying workflow.

When the University of Utah Health chose to deploy a hybrid cloud set up, the main goal was to improve business agility, but saw a waterfall of benefits from the switch.

The Salt Lake City-based health system now has a cloud-first strategy that makes use of automation tools for several data center processes in order to more easily move workloads in and out of the cloud as well as between public and private clouds. This offers better scalability and data accessibility to the organization.

“You could move data from this platform to a low-cost cloud storage service for data archiving and long-term backup, then move it back on-premises if you need to,” CTO Jim Livingston tells HealthTech. “You just set the policy and it automates the process.”

But aside from agility, another key benefit of University of Utah Health’s hybrid cloud strategy is that it can help transform previously siloed infrastructure teams, Livingston says.

“We have brought our server, storage and network teams together to support infrastructure more holistically and move to a more agile service delivery methodology.”

Automation Calls for New IT Skill Sets

When discussing automating data center processes, other executives sometimes ask Livingston if that means reducing staff numbers.

“I always say that is not what it means,” he says. “Instead, the staff’s skill set is changing, and some people who were doing operational tasks are now coders, building out the automation, and others are focusing on more strategic priorities the team couldn’t get to before.”

To make sure he attracts the right kind of candidates, David Chou, Children’s Mercy Hospital vice president and chief information and digital officer, says he uses specific job titles, such as cloud engineer, to signal that this is a very different way of working.

“They don’t have to rack and stack hardware anymore,” he says. “They don’t have to touch servers. They may never even have to go to a data center.”

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