September 16, 2019
Topics: 6 minute read
Cloud computing is shaping healthcare by supporting the logistics and database applications that enable lifesaving technologies to reach the shelf sooner. NetApp has, for some time, supported the cloud computing needs of an international leader in the healthcare equipment sector that designs, manufactures, and distributes crucial healthcare devices.
In moving to cloud, this healthcare device distributor's ultimate goal was to streamline their complex operations, which used SMB protocols (windows file shares), but their method of execution was unclear. They wanted to build their own file service solution in the cloud, but they weren’t sure if it really made sense for them to do so: What was the right solution for the healthcare sector, in a cloud-oriented world? Did they take the risk and move their highly important operations to the cloud?
Idea #1: Build-your-own. Building an environment with SMB protocol support on top of an already complex infrastructure created a cascade of issues--from unproven performance and to the high cost of enlisting skilled engineers to manage the DIY build.
Idea #2: Find the optimal cloud solution for healthcare. NetApp® Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud was the solution to their file service conundrum. Instead of contriving a DIY solution to manage their Windows-based applications in the cloud, the company adopted NetApp’s fully managed cloud solution to remedy their file service and SAP woes. In adopting Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud to solve their shared storage problem, the healthcare company was able to minimize costs, labor, and time drain.
NetApp Cloud Volumes Service or Build-Your-Own Solution?
When transitioning to the cloud, the healthcare company considered a build-your-own solution to straighten out their shared storage troubles. But constructing their own solution involved tedious administration, labor-intensive construction, and frequent fine-tuning. The company needed a cloud management service to streamline its infrastructure without any interruptions in service.
Historically, to solve this issue, companies have had to construct their own in-house SMB shared storage and file service solution—stacking third-party services on top of an already tall stack of in-house infrastructure. These unwieldy environments permitted the use of SMB protocols in the cloud, but they were cumbersome, difficult to scale (and nearly impossible to scale on demand), and extremely expensive. DIY builds that support SMB protocols in the cloud capture and keep developers’ time, turning experts’ attention away from the focal point of their development work at the company.
A build-your-own approach to the cloud adds complexity where Cloud Volumes Service offers simplicity. The product offers immediate access to crucial features, such as data protection, replication, transfer, and sync, along with high availability, durability, and performance that users can change on demand. For this healthcare company, high availability was really a key variable for their file service applications.
But the company was hesitant to gamble on a cloud solution because they’d housed their data on-premises for so long; they knew they had to let go of the data center, but they weren’t quite sure how to let the cloud take the lead.
The Short Version: Strides Toward a Better Healthcare Operation With Cloud
NetApp proposed that the healthcare company simply take advantage of Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud, which offered full NFS/SMB support. In a few keystrokes and clicks of the mouse, the company was able to spin up 50TB of cloud volumes right off the bat, and to access their data immediately. All the while, their data was encrypted. Using NetAppTM Snapshot technology, they can now make incremental copies of their data and applications, and those snapshots are available in milliseconds.
The Longer Version: Control Your Healthcare Cloud Spend
Fact: The data center is expensive. The cost benefits of Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud were immediate. Following their previous self-service data management model, the company ramped up its capital expenditures (capex) around every five years. Their upfront costs, not including operations and personnel, were concentrated on equipment, such as servers and microchips that would inevitably need to be replaced. That led to a cycle of largely unproductive spending on energy-intensive equipment. The data center offered them outstanding performance but at a steep cost--including back-of-mind expenses, such as energy, property leases or purchase costs, and personnel.
It takes a highly skilled (hence: expensive) team to run an on-premises storage operation, and manual administration requires full-time dedication to make sure that all the moving parts are in order. That team is only human, meaning that it takes time for them to spin up new storage--and requisitioning that storage may take days or even weeks, and might require companies to order new servers or parts in order to fulfill a request.
All of these factors coalesced into an unpleasant mixture of frustration and dismay--frustration with costs, dismay at time drain.
Instead of investing endless capex in an on-premises solution, with a guaranteed hike in costs every few years, companies that live in the cloud manage their storage on a pure operational expenditure (opex) model, with the same high availability as on-premises solutions.
Once the company found NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud, an SMB-supportive file service solution that suited their database workloads, they knew there was no other option: they had to move to the cloud. Afterall, in some drastic cases, moving to the cloud has led to a spending decrease of $100,000 per month (more often, $100,000 or more a year).
But that resolution led them down a rabbit hole of other concerns.
The Bottom Line: How Hard Is It to Move a Healthcare Operation to Cloud?
Moving an enterprise to the cloud is a big deal, particularly when it comes to pressing areas like healthcare--sectors that have the potential to save lives. A lot of questions arose before the company began their cloud journey, such as:
- Which public cloud should I use?
- How do I know that my data is secure in cloud?
- What resources will I need to devote to the cloud migration?
- Will I need to rearchitect my applications when moving to the cloud?
- Will I have to use two separate GUIs to manage my cloud resources?
- Is billing for Cloud Volumes Service administered separately from Google Cloud?
Fortunately, the answer to all of their questions was a resounding “we’ve got you covered.”
The company migrated their applications and data to the cloud using Cloud Sync—which eased one of their main fears: rearchitecting their applications to squeeze their existing infrastructure into the cloud. Cloud Sync, in many ways, managed the transition for them—it migrated and synchronized their existing on-premises data and applications at the flip of a switch. And the process was fully encrypted, which meant that their data was never at risk.
Using Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud, the company now manages its storage operation from a single pane: the same intuitive GUI as Google Cloud.
Further, the company wanted to use a service that would administer billing through their Google Cloud account, rather than paying multiple invoices through distinct channels. Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud offers integrated billing with Google Cloud and support is offered directly through Google.
But those features are just the tip of the iceberg. Next up, the company intends to migrate their integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) to the cloud using NetApp Cloud Volumes Service, effectively transitioning their company to the next era of healthcare supply chain management.
That’s how the cloud shapes healthcare.