COVID is causing a ‘crazy cloud rush’

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Quick picks for telehealth delivery and in other quick-response segments were needed, and now leaders are re-examining those picks.


Migration to the cloud should be thought about and used to help a healthcare organization achieve its business goals, according to Marc Mangus, principal specialist solutions architect at Red Hat, an open-source software cloud service provider.

But the response to the COVID pandemic has short-circuited measured choices, out of necessity or desperation.

When COVID hit, healthcare organizations were completely overwhelmed overnight, with capacity, and they had to do something, Mangus says. It was then that they began to identify the fruit at hand, which for many of them was telehealth. Using the cloud was the natural way to accelerate telehealth, but many failed to do their due diligence from the start.

“There was this crazy cloud rush,” says Mangus. During this time, CIOs moved many resources to the cloud unchanged or with minimal changes. They have also launched turnkey solutions, such as telehealth. Looking back, they realize that they made things much more complicated and much more expensive.

Once the migration is done, it’s sometimes too late for things to be optimal, says Mangus. “When you start thinking about taking a needs-based approach to rushing to the cloud, because you have to, and moving to a more thoughtful, proactive approach to designing what you need to cloud natively so you can extract all the value – that’s the kind of thing that’s happening now.Also, there’s been a lot of pressure on governance, risk and compliance as the cloud has been brought into the mix.

Another issue with moving to the cloud with as few changes as possible is that oftentimes an organization has already paid for “hardware, a data center, electricity, etc.” — and when it moves it to the cloud, it’s consumption-based. price, says Mangus. “So either they pay as they go or they walk away from a contract they’ve committed to: but it’s almost as if they’re paying it again.”

Mangus recognizes that sometimes migrating to the cloud without planning or optimization is the only way an organization can get things done. “It’s a first step to gaining a foothold.” But what he has seen is that sometimes it drags on too long. And now assets are just sitting in the cloud and consuming money. “The answer to that is to redesign everything you can in terms of workloads, redesign them, reformat them, reprogram them to be cloud-native,” he says.

One way to be more cloud native is to use containers, says Mangus. These “mini virtual machines” can be included in applications when they are moved to the cloud. “They contain the absolute minimum footprint of an operating system. It makes the environment in which they run their applications, their workloads, denser, if you will, so [a healthcare organization] can get more running on the same hardware and pay the same amount of money,” he says.

Tim Brown, director of business intelligence at Infor, a cloud software provider, says security is a priority for CIOs right now. The high cost of security management is a big problem for healthcare. CIOs are finding some relief from their worries about the cloud. “It’s comforting to know that cloud providers have world-class security teams. They have a level of talent that healthcare CIOs wouldn’t necessarily have within their own walls,” he says.

Brown predicts that moving to the cloud could change some roles in IT departments and hospitals. Maintaining a system in the cloud will require relying on different service providers. The types of consulting services a healthcare organization will need will change. Healthcare CIOs will form close partnerships with these service providers, for the technology or components they support, he says.

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