Bill Kleyman BlogGuest blog by: Bill Kleyman, VP of Strategy and Innovation at MTM Technologies

We’ve reached a point within the modern healthcare data center where new forms of content delivery, business strategies, and even user enablement have fundamentally changed the way technology is deployed and utilized. A recent Cisco report really illustrated this point when it outlined that by 2019, more than four-fifths (86%) of workloads will be processed by cloud data centers. Furthermore, the report stated that overall data center workloads will more than double (2.5x) from 2014 to 2019; and, cloud workloads will more than triple (3.3x) over the same period.

It’s important to note that it’s not just cloud that’s pushing the way forward. Cisco’s mobile networks report indicated that by 2018, there will be 8.2 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and 2 billion machine-to-machine connections.

An example is medical applications making patient records and health status more readily available. Furthermore, real-time information monitoring has helped companies deploy new video-based security systems. While also helping hospitals and healthcare professionals remotely monitor the progress of their patients, bandwidth-intensive M2M connections are becoming more prevalent. These new connections will utilize both on premise and cloud-based resources.

With all of this in mind, it’s critical for healthcare operators to be ready for a new, digital world. And so, moving into 2016 – here are 5 critical trends to look for when it comes to cloud, virtualization, security, and your data center.

1. Your Data Center Has Become a Piece of the Cloud

The structure of the modern data center has allowed it to be a lot more distributed, interconnected, and agile. Cloud computing has played a big part in all of this. Moving forward, we’re going to see an even greater evolution around cloud computing. Specifically, we’ll see new types of cloud services. For healthcare, this is big. What’s even more significant is that cloud providers and cloud services are now becoming vastly HIPAA-compliant. This means that protected health information can be processed through a cloud partner. Furthermore, new tools are allowing for even greater integration with on premise systems and cloud service counterparts. This type of architecture signals the shift to a hybrid cloud ecosystem.

Consider this, a recent Gartner report stated that the use of cloud computing will continue to grow, and by 2016 this growth will increase to become the bulk of new IT spend. Making 2016 a defining year for cloud – as private cloud begins to give way to hybrid cloud – and nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017. It’ll be important to use tools capable of creating an agile user ecosystem; that allows the delivery of applications and resources from on premise locations and the cloud. Look for portal-based environments which can aggregate a variety of services, applications, and resources. 

2. Business and Workflow Automation Will Become Critical

It’s not about putting together the best hardware or even software environment any longer. The new initiative revolves around creating an intelligent data center ecosystem capable of facing real-world scenarios. This level of intelligence requires some degree of business and workflow automation. This can be as simple as licensing control, or as complex as application delivery based on contextual user groups.

Your healthcare environment can become a lot more proactive by understanding user requirements and how to best allocate resources. Most of all, good business workflow processes can help to create best practices in infrastructure security. You can remove rogue accounts, easily manage expired admin accounts within active directory, and even lock down segments of an application based on user details. These types of technologies allow your healthcare IT environment to work for you; while allowing you to focus on growing the business and removing complexity.

3. Virtualization Will Re-Define Data Center Deployment

We’ve reached a point where virtualization is now firmly embedded at almost every enterprise, across all verticals. Moving forward, virtualization will help define the software-defined data center (SDDC) and will be crucial to the long-term evolution of an agile digital business. Consider this, by 2020, Gartner predicts that the programmatic capabilities of an SDDC will be considered a requirement for 75% of the Global 2000 enterprises that seek to implement a hybrid cloud model. There are new ways to virtualize resources, abstract physical resources, and control your entire ecosystem.

Virtual appliances, virtual security services, SDN/NFV, and even user virtualization all help create a powerful “virtual” tool bag. In working with virtualization technologies – it’s critical to understand your use cases. New ways to deliver virtual applications and even powerful virtual desktops are all helping redefine how users interact with their healthcare IT environments. Virtualization within healthcare can create new economics in terms of data center consolidation, user experience optimization, and even security.

4. Security Will Remain a Top Priority; Make Sure to Protect Against the Entire Threat Continuum

Recently, Juniper Research pointed out that the rapid digitization of consumers’ lives and enterprise records will increase the cost of data breaches to $2.1 trillion globally by 2019, increasing to almost 4x the estimated cost of breaches in 2015. Today, the black market value of medical data is greater than even that of financial information. This means that there will be increased targets with the rise of the digitized healthcare organization.

Your security strategy must absolutely evolve in line with the digital evolution we’re experiencing. This means creating security strategies around physical as well as logical components. Are you locking down USB ports? How are you controlling physical points of entry? How are you securing protected health information in a virtual environment? There are a number of questions you must answer as you secure all critical points within your data center. Most importantly, know that your security solution must scale with the business and not deprecate the user experience. 

5. Your Users are Evolving, are You?

Consider this, the latest Cisco Mobility report pointed out that last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 30x the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. One exabyte of traffic traversed the global Internet in 2000, and by the end of 2014 mobile networks carried more than 30 exabytes of traffic. There’s absolutely no denying that our users are no longer “9-5” employees. They’re using more devices, accessing critical applications from multiple locations, and finding new ways to be productive.

Healthcare organizations need to adapt and provide the powerful user experiences their staff expect, regardless of the device being used. This will need to be coupled with a good security strategy to ensure that protected healthcare information remains compliant and safe. New tools allow for the complete abstraction of the user ecosystem. This decoupling creates a truly mobile user not bound by a physical device. These tools also create policies to ensure proper access and content delivery.

Remember, when it comes to healthcare, the data center ecosystem and supporting your users – there is no silver bullet. However, there are new technologies which help simplify delivery methodologies, create automation, and even enhance security protocols. In the healthcare world, data is extremely valuable so security will continue to be a big concern. Additionally, allowing doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers to use the tools which make them most productive will be critical. In 2016 and beyond – think “outside” of the data center when you deploy and deliver new types of solutions. Make sure to support an ever-mobile user with powerful virtualization and cloud technologies.

Most of all, use next-generation IT systems to help directly align your healthcare business with the capabilities of your data center. This will allow your organization to scale dynamically and be ready for the mobile – digital – world.