Jul 30 2018

Hybrid Cloud Strategies Offer Healthcare Organizations Agility and Control

Attitudes are changing when it comes to using hybrid cloud for healthcare. IT execs thinking of adopting cloud should start with a strong understanding.

Private clouds give healthcare organizations control over and visibility into their resources, along with the opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure and facilities. Public cloud providers, meanwhile, give enterprises the ability to quickly scale resources up and down, providing unprecedented levels of flexibility and agility.

A hybrid cloud model offers both and are often the best bet for healthcare organizations as they seek the necessary security and HIPAA compliance for patient data.

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Hybrid Cloud 101: What It Is and What It Isn't

So, what is the hybrid cloud? For as much attention as it has received in recent years, cloud computing is still shrouded in a fog of misunderstanding.

Even among IT leaders, it is somewhat common for people to mention their “private cloud” in reference to any on-premises IT resources, while using the term “public cloud” to refer to any outsourced resources. Using these definitions, practically every organization of any size is already operating in a hybrid cloud environment. But in fact, these definitions are slippery and imprecise, and they fail to address the factors that set cloud computing apart from traditional IT operations.

The cloud is a methodology: a way of provisioning IT resources, whether those resources live in a central, on-premises data center or are owned and maintained by a large public cloud provider in a shared data center several states away from an organization’s headquarters. When people casually refer to their organization’s “hybrid cloud,” they often fail to consider whether the on-premises resources in what they’re calling a “private cloud” are truly being delivered in a cloud model.

Typically, this will mean that resources are 100 percent virtualized and highly automated, with capabilities for user self-service and metering. In other words, if on-premises infrastructure is still running in traditional ways — rather than being available to users on the same “as a service” basis that public cloud resources are — then it isn’t a private cloud at all; it’s just on-premises infrastructure.

This distinction isn’t merely a matter of semantics. Healthcare organizations evaluating different approaches to building out effective, nimble IT environments have an array of options open to them, and it’s vital that IT leaders understand, with pinpoint precision, exactly what these options are.

Occasionally using public cloud resources alongside on-premises resources is one strategy. A true hybrid cloud is something else.

3 Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Adoption in Healthcare

Of these options, healthcare organizations often opt for a hybrid cloud approach as a way to continue to take advantage of existing IT resources, quickly scale out new resources, maintain a higher level of control over and visibility into certain workloads, and tie various systems together for a seamless end-user experience.

The potential benefits of a hybrid cloud computing model include:

  1. Flexibility: When organizations tie private and public clouds together in a hybrid model, they can place applications in one or the other depending on specific resource requirements. For example, when workloads are in the testing phase, enterprises might opt to place these in the public cloud, where it is fast and simple to scale up resources if necessary. However, steady-state applications might be a better fit for an organization’s private cloud, especially if on-premises infrastructure is readily available and if resource needs are reasonably predictable.

  2. On-Demand Resources: During the early days of the public cloud, it was common to hear people cite cost savings as a surefire benefit of migrating resources. In fact, as IT leaders at many organizations have discovered, utilizing public cloud resources won’t necessarily reduce infrastructure expenses. Rather, the public cloud can help organizations optimize IT spending by giving them the option of scaling up on-demand resources almost instantaneously. The on-demand processing power of the public cloud lets organizations run their day-to-day workloads in their private clouds (which very well may cost less over time), and then spill over workloads into the public cloud during periods of peak demand.

  3. Workload Management: Some workload types are more or less equally well suited to private or public clouds. In these cases, organizations can make decisions about where to run them based on preference, cost, existing resources and other factors. But for certain workloads, either the private or the public cloud is inherently a better fit. For instance, large workloads that have the potential to monopolize resources will typically be a better fit for the public cloud. Meanwhile, workloads that are subject to heavy regulatory scrutiny, such as e-commerce payment processing, might be better suited for the private cloud.

Learn how to build your hybrid cloud strategy by reading the CDW white paper, “Hybrid Clouds Deliver the Best of Both Worlds.”

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