Cloud Computing and Infrastructure-as-a-Service Come of Age
Today, Cloud Computing is a mainstay of business, and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (sometimes referred to as “IT-as-a-Service”) is increasingly a high-value proposition for businesses across market sectors. In the Cloud Computing environment, servers added to the environment are configured to become part of the bigger system, and usage is segmented out based on the business application and need. That means higher throughput, self-service computing power ‘on demand,’ and rapid elasticity so computing services can flux up or down as the business needs dictate.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service Defined: Provisioning processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources means the consumer of those resources does not manage or control the underlying cloud physical infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, deployed applications, and possibly limited control of select networking components
With all the benefits of Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Cloud Computing, the market has since flooded with providers. So the bigger challenge in today’s cloud-friendly marketplace is choosing from the multitude of potential partners out there—from big enterprise providers such as Google and Amazon Web Services, to smaller niche providers that offer an added set of unique requirements that might be specific to certain industries. No doubt, there’s plenty of choice, and no two partners seem to be alike. Each one touts various attributes and attempts to differentiate itself in meaningful ways.
In certain market segments, however, the differences become increasingly important, with industries such as Healthcare and Life Sciences under heavy regulatory and compliance burdens. That means hunting for the right provider with ‘all the right stuff’ isn’t a matter of preference in how your environment is set up and managed, it’s a matter of technical fact and careful scrutiny.
Why the Cloud and IaaS Can Get Interesting When Industry-Specific
Industry drivers such as the adoption of electronic medical records, the need to reduce unnecessary costs around delivering healthcare, and aging technology infrastructures has led to an increasing interest in Cloud Computing and Infrastructure-as-a-Service Solutions. Healthcare organizations are also increasingly interested in collaborating with other organizations to more effectively provide patient care, making changes to the legacy, on-premise systems of the past a sure thing.
Running a business under heavy regulatory burdens, however, changes the dynamics and requirements needed for leveraging Cloud Computing and Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions. Healthcare and Life Sciences (Pharmaceuticals, Medical Device, Biotech, Biomedical, etc.) and others that deal in massive amounts of consumer, patient and payment data must employ more rigorous—and sometimes more creative—infrastructure and cloud solutions to maintain compliance with regulations such as:
- HIPPA: the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
- HITECH: the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
- PCI: the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
- SOC 2: Service Organization Control 2 reports on various organizational controls related to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality or privacy.
- SOX: the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, also known as the ‘Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act’ and ‘Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act.
In the case of Healthcare and Life Sciences, HIPPA, HITECH and PCI compliance drive the need for secure and sometimes private or closed cloud networks that maintain compliance and protect individual consumer, patient information and financial data. However implemented, virtualizing an organization’s IT infrastructure can have multiple benefits such as lowering costs, advancing technology capabilities without bearing the risk, increased flexibility and scalability, improved security, and more.
According to a 2013 study of 109 healthcare CIOs entitled “Health Check: Healthcare CIOs Prescribe Change,” conducted by MeriTalk, respondents estimate that by adopting IT as a service they can reduce IT costs by as much as nine percent.
The MeriTalk study also revealed that 90 percent of healthcare IT executives believe IT innovation is the key to their organization’s success.1 The respondents estimate that about 47 percent of their current portfolio has the potential to be delivered via ITaaS in the future.1
As Healthcare and Life Sciences organizations evaluate providers, it’s important to look a bit beyond the technical specification. Providers should also have:
- Knowledge of your industry: the right provider should have experience in and a solid understanding of the regulatory, security and other governance compliance requirements that apps and data need to follow.
- Technical competence and consultative capabilities: access to technology hardware, apps and data may get you so far, but be sure the team supporting your IaaS / cloud solution has the necessary certifications and expertise, and that they can effectively help plan and manage the solution in light of your specific business needs.
- Offers an ecosystem of value-added software and hardware partners: providers that can bring a network of business partners that specialize in various hardware and/or applications add exponential value to your solution.
- Key locations of the data center(s): look for providers that offer the right data center locations to best serve your business, and that can offer disaster recovery capabilities.
- High CSAT marks for delivering great customer service: checking references should be a must to verify the provider’s customer service record, specific CSAT marks, average length of customer relationship and attrition are in check.
- Regulatory–specific security: understand how servers, applications and data are secured, stored and delivered throughout the network and to end users; understand security policies and related insurance coverage in the event of a breach.
Today’s Cloud and IaaS Solutions Offer Choice, Flexibility and Control
Today’s marketplace offers a wide variety of choice with plenty of options for sourcing, flexibility and control. There is, however, a lot to consider in evaluating potential providers. While customers may perceive providers as having infinite capacity, 24/7/365 availability, improved elasticity and improved cost efficiency, many providers have strengths and weaknesses that need to be considered in light of the business requirements. Many IT providers have evolved from a server-centric approach to a service-centric approach, delivering technology and application solutions on standardized platforms. While others offer a hybrid approach using multiple cloud options to support a growing market of organizations with diverse business needs and user bases.
How is Your Business Leveraging the Cloud and IaaS Solutions?
How is your Healthcare or Life Sciences business using Cloud Computing and Infrastructure-as-a-Service? What’s holding you back from moving to this new paradigm shift? Ready to share, connect and collaborate?
I invite you to join us to share your own experiences and expertise at an upcoming event hosted by Valor Global and DIRTT Environmental on July 17th at DIRTT’s offices in Tempe. We are gathering a new ‘think tank’ of Healthcare leaders from across the state to collaborate and brainstorm how the cloud and IaaS are advancing science and affecting patient outcomes every day.
1 “Health Check: Healthcare CIOs Prescribe Change,” MeriTalk Heatlh IT Community; www.meritalk.com/healthcheck; (Aug, 2013)