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The potential of hybrid multi-cloud in integrated care


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The combination of public and private clouds can play a big role in the development of integrated care systems, writes Andrew Puddephatt, director UK public sector at Nutanix

As healthcare organisations adapt to their roles in integrated care systems (ICSs), there is a growing recognition of the potential of a hybrid multi-cloud model to provide an effective digital infrastructure.

It is something that we at Nutanix have found over the past 18 months in our conversations with NHS trusts and community services. They are concerned about how they will adapt and collaborate around IT strategies to align with those of other members of their ICSs, and increasingly see the core design principle as integration and interoperability, rather than wholesale standardisation on a set of technologies.

This will give them flexibility in their choices while enabling the data sharing, along with high standards of security, that is crucial within an ICS.

It is also important that as part of an IT strategy they are focused on removing complexity and legacy at every opportunity so their people can focus on innovation in patient care. This is where the hybrid multi-cloud, in which cloud services are interoperable with each other, can be the most effective operating model for integrated care.

It involves applications and workloads being run from a single management plane across multiple cloud locations – private, on premise, public – and can be applied to clinical and business applications, electronic health records and data analytics, all accessed either through desktops in a clinical setting or remotely. It can also cover the gamut of care organisations, including primary, secondary and mental health care, maternity, community services and social care.

Seamless movement

The management plane makes it possible to seamlessly move applications and workloads between private clouds, which can be used to overcome specific challenges in care, and public cloud services from a wide range of providers that often provide the big economies and easy interoperability with other systems.

This can help healthcare organisations deal with the challenges around legacy applications not being cloud ready, data volumes, data sensitivity, network latency and the cost governance of cloud. It also ensures that security and privacy remain front and centre in the management of data.

The significance of this is reflected in the findings of recent research, commissioned by Nutanix and carried out by Vanson Bourne, with 250 IT leaders from healthcare organisation. It showed there is still some way to go, with 25% still running operations within a traditional data centre and 30% using only private cloud. They also see significant challenges in a move to multi-cloud, with close to half identifying problems in integrating data across clouds, managing costs and performance challenges with network overlays.

But sentiment is in favour of a change. All of them had moved one of more applications to a new IT environment over the past 12 months, half expected to be operating in a multi-cloud environment within one to three years, and 90% agreed that this would be the ideal approach.

It reflects the understanding that the difficulties can be overcome and there are great benefits in using public cloud as a key factor in an organisation’s IT infrastructure.

Developing the model

Nutanix is building on this potential, working closely with cloud hyperscalers Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform to ensure applications and workloads can be moved easily between their platforms, and developing a model that gives users a clear view and full control of their operations across clouds.

It is collaborating with Crown Hosting to build the model out across the public sector and will imminently have a proof of concept ready for testing.

This promises to be a major step in the adoption hybrid multi-cloud, enabling healthcare organisations to move towards a ‘cloud as appropriate’ strategy, using private clouds for specialist applications while obtaining the value from public clouds in areas such as cost, end user computing capacity, remote working and disaster recovery.

Crucially, it will also support the sharing of data between clouds and on-premise data centres, within and between organisations, providing a major boost to the evolution of the ICS.

Nutanix recently worked with UKAuthority Inform to explore the priorities for technology, data, funding and structures to work with integrated care systems - download the briefing note below:

Download the UKAuthority & Nutanix briefing note: The path to integrated health and social care

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