The New World of Cloud Computing (Part 2): For Large, Global Healthcare Enterprises, the Cloud Delivers Unique Benefits

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By Vinil Menon

The cloud computing market shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the global healthcare cloud computing market is expected to reach $27.8 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 11.8 percent, according to a recent report. For healthcare especially, many view cloud computing as the key to facilitating better collaborative research among various healthcare researchers and other stakeholders in the global market. Yet, as we discussed in part one in this series, some large healthcare enterprises have backed away from a cloud infrastructure, mainly due to security and cost. While it’s not the right fit for all organizations, the cloud architecture provides tremendous benefits for some large, global healthcare enterprises that can’t be achieved with an on-premise approach. To determine what’s best for their organization, healthcare IT leaders must identify their specific requirements for achieving short and long-term objectives and evaluate the six most-compelling benefits of a cloud architecture. 

Scalability for fast or unpredictable growth: Workload growth is a good determinant of the need for scalability. If critical workloads are on exponential growth paths, the cloud offers more cost-effective scalability. For example, both B2C and API-oriented workloads have user bases that can be unpredictable and increase quickly, while requiring months to stabilize. With an on-premise approach, planning for this type of growth is challenging, leading to over-provisioning and infrastructure that is underutilized. On the cloud, resources for analytics, machine learning, media encoding and data generation workloads can be scaled up or down as required. For example, a global biopharmaceutical company moved its research analytics platform to the cloud, resulting in a 90 percent improvement in process turnaround time. 

IoT and device integration: Workloads that manage connections to IoT and devices, including ingesting and analyzing device data, create a tailor-made use case for cloud computing. For instance, a leading wearable physiology monitoring company built its whole patient health data pipeline on the cloud in order to move data efficiently from devices to the cloud – and to improve analytics performance. The real-time analytics requirement, project timelines and computational needs made the cloud an excellent choice for the organization, resulting in an architecture that is not only cost-effective, but also scalable and high performing. 

Agility to enable innovation: Many healthcare enterprises use the cloud to create specialized environments to support experimentation and faster deployment of Minimal Viable Product (MVP) packages for customer feedback. This allows enterprises to iterate rapidly and supports greater experimentation industry-wide. For those organizations running machine learning workloads on the cloud and integrating the data back on-premise, this enables them to experiment with their workloads on faster and more sophisticated hardware, while keeping other costs low.

Global reach: For global healthcare enterprises, a cloud-based architecture allows for the same code base to run virtually anywhere in the world, since many cloud vendors have data centers across the globe, which can enhance a multi-cloud strategy significantly. This kind of reach is cost-prohibitive with an on-premise approach. Yet, especially for digital, clinical trial and B2C initiatives that need global reach, deploying an infrastructure that runs code to the appropriate region or using a cloud vendors’ platform-as-a-service offering makes it cost-effective to achieve. 

Cheaper disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC): Due to the cloud’s low storage cost and basic computing infrastructure, many businesses see the cloud as an effective DR strategy. With a dedicated connection to the cloud provider and a cloud-enabled version of their backup tools, organizations mirror their critical on-premise infrastructure onto an appropriate local region on the cloud. Next, organizations expand use of the cloud platform to mirror that infrastructure to other parts of the globe. This approach provides the flexibility to run in low-burn mode, while providing automated, periodic checks of the on-premise infrastructure to determine if a failover is needed. For large enterprises, this approach is less costly and more reliable than an on-premise solution. 

Faster development and QA: For global enterprises, such as pharmaceutical, medical device and software enterprises, the initial stages of new product development, with more unpredictable resource requirements, may be both faster and more cost-effective on the cloud. Especially for growing or geo-distributed teams, this approach enables faster QA and continuous feedback iteration. As cloud-based tools become more sophisticated, QA processes can run in parallel, rather than sequentially, allowing for immediate feedback to development teams on a variety of aspects, including performance, security, scalability, network latency and peak load characteristics. Once the product achieves stability, organizations can move development back on-premise. This approach allows engineering teams to tune code in a matter of hours instead of weeks. 

Let Business Requirements Guide Cloud Strategy

No technology, even cloud computing, is a perfect answer to solve industry issues. Each organization should consider its own unique business drivers as well as both short- and long-term objectives to determine how to apply technologies, such as could computing, for maximum advantage. For large healthcare organizations, there are many factors to consider in determining the right approach – cloud, on-premise or a hybrid. As we discussed in part one of this series, for some organizations, cost and security considerations make an on-premise approach favorable. Concurrently, there are proven benefits to a cloud approach for many large healthcare enterprises. In today’s rapidly evolving technology environment, healthcare organizations are wise to invest in the expertise to complete a thorough evaluation of business requirements and objectives along with currently available cloud solutions to avoid false starts and missed opportunities. Given the healthcare industry has been working with the cloud for almost two decades, there are best practices that can help make the right choice for their organization.

Vinil Menon is Senior Vice President-Enterprise Applications for CitiusTech

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