Health Tech Firms Are in the Clouds. Here’s Why.

Tim Carter

When it comes to characterizing the mass of information being produced and mined these days by members of the health innovation economy, the “big” in big data doesn’t seem big enough.

Take, for example, the 1,000 Genome Project, a focused initiative that aimed to sequence the genomes of at least 1,000 participants (hence, the name) from various ethnic groups. Today, data from the project’s 1,700 subjects takes up an impressive 200,000 gigabytes on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform. With a 100,000 Genome Project underway and an initiative to compile genome sequences from 2 million people launched this year by drug maker AstraZeneca, the gigabytes involved start to boggle the mind.

In short, these are enormous data sets, they are growing all the time, and within them lay pathways to treatments for a range of diseases and disorders. So it’s essential for these health tech companies to have partners who can help them efficiently and securely store, manage, analyze and share this information wherever and whenever needed. And the cloud is the key.

An Interdependent Economy

The health innovation economy includes six sub-segments:

  1. Delivery Networks
  2. Insurance
  3. Governments
  4. Health Information Exchanges
  5. Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Companies
  6. Service Providers

These sectors are interdependent and increasingly need to connect with each other to deliver services to their markets. Where this involves the cloud ̶ and increasingly, it does ̶ the complexity increases.

The story used to be that many companies in this space, particularly pharmaceuticals, weren’t using cloud because of concerns about the security of the sensitive data they were handling. But the reality of the growing business demands on health tech firms have made the cloud the right choice for increasing numbers of providers. One of those demands is the imperative to develop new treatments as licensing rights on existing drugs expire. In the old days, companies would just build out their own on-premises data centers, but they haven’t got the money to do that anymore. It’s also deeply impractical, for a few reasons:

  • The Size of the Data Sets

We’ve already alluded to the massive size of the data sets that are the currency in the health innovation economy. When companies start trying to move them over their private, legacy wide area networks (WANs), the pipes get clogged, latency increases and data processing slows way down. Throwing money into more bandwidth to expand the pipes doesn’t help. But once the data is in the cloud, it’s off of the companies’ backbone network ̶ yet can still be securely accessed globally ̶ freeing up their network to deliver greater performance and a better user experience.

  • The Need for Collaboration

Collaboration is already happening in this space, but the need for it is intensifying. It’s the only route to the speed, storage, processing and analysis capabilities health tech firms now need. And the cloud is the only place to find the vibrant partnerships and expanded computing capacity required to make that kind of expanded collaboration work.

  • The Hyperscalers Do It Better

Despite reservations about cloud performance, security and reliability among health tech firms, the reality is that the cloud hyperscalers (i.e., AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform) have developed their public cloud platforms so well that enterprises simply can’t match them on their own. For instance, after a hack, the audit trail and mitigation is available to a pharmaceutical firm in the public cloud much more quickly than it would be if the data was on-premises. The quality of the hyperscalers’ offerings is so good, that health tech firms see no sense in keeping everything in-house.

A Knowledgeable Partner

As health tech firms get more cloud-active, Equinix has an important role to play in helping them succeed.

First, all the world’s leading cloud providers are on our global interconnection platform and accessible from our more than 145 data centers in 40 markets. Companies can also set up hybrid cloud deployments at any of our facilities, keeping their most sensitive material in a private cloud, while maintaining easy access to global and regional public cloud partners.

We host more than 8,000 companies on Platform Equinix™, including 2,250+ enterprises, 2,500+ cloud and IT providers and 1,400 networks. That’s a healthy choice of potential partners for the collaboration that’s critical for health tech research and development, or to help reach markets and end users globally. And the Equinix Cloud Exchange is starting to act as a “health information exchange” by connecting companies in this space to their clouds with private, fast interconnection.

Equinix can also be part of handling the huge data sets essential to this industry. When companies shift data around the world via the cloud, that data is likely moving through us. We also offer Data Hub, which allows the enterprise to securely store sensitive data locally at any one of our facilities worldwide, for faster access and analysis near where the data was created or is most needed.

Equinix knows health tech. In October, we were invited to join the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH). Our role in this global alliance is a sign of our commitment to the industry and the value health tech firms are finding in our solutions and the vital interconnections they deliver.

Learn about the Future of Health IT in articles and a video posted at Equinix Forum.

Tim Carter
Tim Carter Connected Health and FMCG sectors