As healthcare organizations become tasked with improving quality of care and interoperability, appropriately managing millions of electronic health records alongside integrating social health information can make these dreams a reality. But the infrastructure lift necessary to take health IT and patient satisfaction to the next level is no easy task — luckily, the cloud can provide.
The cloud can offer a more efficient way to manage resources while cutting costs in the meantime. But deploying the cloud in healthcare requires careful and nuanced planning when it comes to both infrastructure and corporate culture.
Tim Hanrahan, principal for Cloud Client Services at CDW, has helped dozens of organizations across the country shift their on-premises workloads to public, private and hybrid cloud models.
He’s also watched as other companies have set out on cloud transformation journeys without a roadmap — or a partner — to guide them, often to disastrous results.
“If an organization doesn’t take that step back to look at people, processes and technology before they implement a cloud solution, there’s a good chance it will fail,” Hanrahan says.
Many healthcare organizations have placed simple workloads in the cloud, but some are resisting a more aggressive move. By placing more of their workloads in public, private and hybrid clouds, healthcare organizations can achieve benefits including flexibility, agility and cost savings — but only if they do so strategically. The first step is to assess the organization’s existing environment to set goals, identify potential stumbling blocks and determine which resources to move first.
“Everybody’s ‘ready’ for the cloud, but the real question is, ‘How prepared are you?’” says Lauren Nelson, a principal analyst with Forrester. “What you find out about your organization during a preparedness assessment doesn’t change your ability to move, but it may affect your timeframe and require you to make additional investments.”
Recognize the Challenges Around the Healthcare Cloud
The considerations surrounding a move to the cloud can feel overwhelming: Which workloads should you start with? What workloads may prove difficult to migrate? Does the healthcare organization have the networking and data center capacity to support cloud resources? Should workloads move to a public, private or hybrid cloud?
The truth is that IT and business leaders who are considering these challenges are already better positioned than many of their peers. While Nelson says organizations shouldn’t use horror stories as an excuse to drag their feet, many organizations have made the mistake of starting “too big” — led by broad executive mandates, rather than a strategic focus on business goals. “People grab onto case studies and talk about moving their entire organizations to the cloud in 20 days,” Nelson says. “That’s where people get grandiose ideas and plans that are flawed from the start. Many exciting popular case studies include a good deal of marketing that strips out key limitations to seemingly grandiose plans.”
Ivan Oprencak, director of product marketing for VMware Cloud, says that “pretty much all” of the customers he speaks with have incorporated public cloud somewhere in their IT strategies. “The differences lie in how much of their environment will be public cloud, which workloads make sense, and how far organizations are on their journey to execute their strategies,” Oprencak says. “Customers are still, for the most part, trying to figure that out.”
Failures frequently occur, Oprencak says, when business and IT leaders make the mistake of thinking that the simplicity of cloud computing models will translate into simple migrations. “People often have a mindset of, ‘This is simple, and I can do it quickly,’” he says. “The reality is, that’s often not the case.” Oprencak cites the example of a company that set out to migrate 400 workloads in 18 months, but only ended up completing five of those migrations. “Some workloads are easier to move than others,” he says.
Hanrahan says that some customers have told him they want to shift their entire data center to the public cloud, only to reveal that they haven’t even implemented virtualization. Further, many of their legacy applications are still running on operating systems not supported by major cloud providers. Rather than blindly pursuing this sort of “all-in” push, he says, organizations should examine how the cloud can help them drive revenue and efficiency given their existing environments, and then prepare accordingly.
“It’s not about implementing cloud for the sake of implementing cloud,” Hanrahan says. “It’s about looking at the business strategy and finding where cloud fits.”
Equip with the Right Tools — and Help — to Get Started
Organizations often begin their cloud journeys by experimenting with workloads that aren’t mission-critical, and that won’t hamper the operation if performance or availability issues arise. Disaster recovery is one popular use case.
However, in healthcare organizations that have made the cloud a significant part of their IT strategies, leaders may want to place more critical resources in the cloud earlier on, to quickly learn lessons about managing and maintaining applications in the cloud over time. In these instances, it is typically much easier to first build out new applications, rather than migrate existing resources.
“A lot of disappointment comes from ‘lift and shift,’” says Oprencak. “When organizations design something from scratch for the cloud, it tends to be more successful.”
Many organizations rely on a third-party partner to help them determine their organizational readiness and take their first steps toward the cloud. During such cloud engagements, consultants can assist organizations with integration plans, infrastructure reviews, planning analyses, financial modeling and validation for available cloud options.
“You need tools to scan your environment. There’s a lot of data to collect and process to make educated decisions. Leveraging tools and experience from people who have actually gone that route accelerates and optimizes migration strategies,” says Nelson. “Migrating existing workloads is so intensive that I have very rarely seen anybody do it alone.”
Learn more about how CDW can help you select the right cloud provider and design the perfect solution for your organization.