VMware's Hybrid Cloud provides new data opportunities

In any industry, there's often a period when a new technology is viewed as more of a risk than an opportunity; never is that more so than in healthcare.  After all, new technologies get a lot of hype, often without substantiative data behind them, and it often takes awhile for the majority of stakeholders to truly recognize the implications or value of that technology.

Take the cloud, for example.  As Bill Hudson, Chief Healthcare Strategist for VMware, sees it, "The cloud is often positioned as this ambiguous, amorphous thing that will solve every problem that you've ever had, or ever will have, without clearly defining the specific value that a cloud-based solution can provide." And as a result, he said, "many people in healthcare still don't think it's applicable within their environment."

According to Hudson, part of the slow adoption of cloud-based technologies in healthcare is the lack of solutions that solve healthcare's specific challenges coupled with a real reluctance of healthcare stakeholders to risk their data and reputations.

Enter VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service, a new generation of service that can serve, not only as a new data center, but as an extension of a provider's current, on-site center.

"The vCloud Hybrid Service can be used as an extension of an existing private network," Hudson explained, "in such a way that clients can manage on-premise and off-premise work with the same security framework and tools they use in their existing on premise environments." He added that the service can be leveraged to meet an array of challenges, including the retirement of legacy systems and data, as well as the migration of non-core systems to a demand model, thus enabling health systems to focus on their core systems in- house.

In Hudson's view, vCloud Hybrid Service gives providers unprecedented flexibility to take on necessary projects. For example, in an ever-changing IT environment, healthcare organizations have an ongoing need to test and certify new solutions, and then to train their staffs to use them. 

"Traditionally," Hudson said, "to do those things in-house means investing in a lot of hardware.  The problem, however, is that those projects are short-term needs, and after they're done the hardware often ends up just sitting there."

VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service gives organizations greater flexibility by enabling them to migrate projects off-premise into an environment that uses the same framework as their on-premise system, then bring it back on-site after the development, testing and training are completed. 

"It's a huge game changer that's unmatched throughout the cloud industry," he said, "in that it will facilitate the adoption of cloud technology because, now, it can be done on the provider's terms."

Anything that organizations are currently virtualizing, he added, can be extended to the hybrid cloud.

Still another advantage to the hybrid cloud, Hudson said, is that it can be used to archive data on demand.  "A client can extract legacy data from their on-site systems and migrate it in the hybrid cloud. The health systems would then pay for the capacity as needed, not up-front as with many on-prem hardware solutions, and then reduce their costs as the data is purged."

Since launching the initial environment offering, VMware has added both disaster recovery and data back-up as services.

According to Hudson, organizations still need to think carefully about how they want to use the cloud. What the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service offers healthcare organizations is the chance to develop more efficient IT services today while also consider how expanded use of the cloud will help them better manage their mission-critical applications in the future.