Dec 11 2023

How SD-WAN Enables Hybrid Cloud Success in Healthcare

By taking advantage of greater flexibility and visibility, health IT teams can improve the management and security of their environments.

Digital transformation initiatives are driving many healthcare organizations to implement hybrid cloud architectures for their IT. The cloud has long been a robust option for organizations looking to improve their flexibility and scalability, but new digital capabilities are spurring even greater adoption. In fact, 90 percent of hospitals have adopted a cloud infrastructure according to a recent study by DuploCloud.

However, organizations that deploy an increasing number of cloud solutions see their IT environments grow more complex. Interdependencies among multiple services become tangled, creating risks for performance, reliability and security.

“When an organization hasn’t planned its cloud properly, they may have a complex cloud design, which can be difficult to manage and monitor,” says Ram Neema, a principal solution architect with CDW. “When you increase the complexity, it increases the cost, and there also may be a greater risk of downtime because of the complexity.”

As they take advantage of their hybrid cloud environments and work to address the challenges, many healthcare organizations are finding that software-defined WAN and a secure service edge (SSE) approach deliver the cloud connectivity they need while enhancing visibility, manageability, performance and security.

Click below to learn how to optimize healthcare’s connection to the hybrid cloud.

Effective Connections for Hybrid and Multicloud Environments

When healthcare organizations started moving workloads to the cloud over the past decade or two, in most cases they didn’t put much thought into how they were connecting to their cloud resources, Neema says. But as health systems became more strategic in their approach to cloud, they made smarter decisions about connectivity.

“We are moving toward a cloud-smart strategy, where we are thinking more about how we can increase agility and decrease the cost for the cloud,” he says. “We also want to figure out how we can extract the full value of the cloud.”

Health IT teams have numerous options as they aim to connect cloud workloads, including connecting via VPN, AWS Direct Connect, cloud exchange and colocation. However, the use of SD-WAN and SSE has become more prevalent.

SD-WAN uses software overlays to manage a network more effectively, giving administrators greater control over bandwidth and traffic flows. This technology allows an organization’s IT team to automate key processes, enabling greater speed and flexibility while enhancing performance. It also provides a clear look into traffic flows and data interactions.

“Connecting a cloud with SD-WAN helps an organization adapt quickly to changes in its hybrid cloud infrastructure,” says Pete Schepers, a principal solution architect with CDW. “As workloads move, you can quickly gain insight into what’s going on in your environment, understand what’s moving and adapt your policy.”

DISCOVER: How healthcare can optimize cloud connectivity.

SD-WAN also lets IT teams see traffic at a granular level, providing data on latency and details about specific transports, helping team members adjust workflows. In addition, it enhances security by automating the implementation of measures such as end-to-end segmentation and end-to-end encryption.

SSE uses tools such as access control, cloud secure web gateways, cloud access security brokers and Firewall as a Service to enable secure access to in-house and cloud-based applications. This approach enforces an organization’s security policies wherever applications and workloads originate.

“Regardless of where your apps live, we want to be able to implement and enforce our security policy,” Schepers says. “We should have the same policy across the entire organization and all of our workloads.”

An Approach for Hybrid Cloud Success in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations should consider performance and user experience as top priorities when they plan their hybrid and multicloud strategies. The way an organization connects users, both clinical and nonclinical, to the cloud resources they consume will have a significant impact on the performance they see and the experience they have.

Implementing SD-WAN to provide cloud connectivity not only delivers the performance and experience users demand but also provides benefits for IT teams. By providing clear visibility into network operations, SD-WAN enables centralized control of resources across the organization.

“It can help unify control to a point where they basically operate their on-premises infrastructure and their cloud resources within the same set of constructs,” says Robert Herriage, senior manager for hybrid infrastructure portfolio and strategy with CDW. “They can leverage those through automation and unified dashboards.”

Ultimately, the right cloud connections enable healthcare organizations to focus less on managing an increasingly complex infrastructure, helping them figure out how to align their IT resources — wherever they may be, on-premises or in the cloud — with their operational and clinical objectives.

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