From interconnected ambulances transforming into virtual emergency rooms to A-FIB patients streaming lifesaving heart arrhythmia data directly to their cardiologist, the Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare is leveraging hybrid (physical and virtual) infrastructure to save lives and ensure greater patient outcomes. The global pandemic accelerated the use of integrated in-person and virtual care exponentially through telemedicine, wearables and other emerging intelligent healthcare technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence (AI), machine leading (ML), data analytics and IoT) that are digitally transforming today’s modern healthcare infrastructures.
According to IDC, a leading provider of global IT research and advice, “By 2023, 65% of patients will have accessed care through a digital front door as healthcare providers look for better ways to improve access, engagements, and experiences across all services.[i]
To leverage these more accessible digital technologies, healthcare IT organizations need to understand the foundational building blocks of hybrid infrastructure and how on-premises data centers, public and private clouds, edge services and applications come together.
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The foundational building blocks of a hybrid infrastructure
Hybrid infrastructure goes beyond hybrid multicloud and is made up of the following four pillars:
- On-premises data centers (either at the business’ location or in a third-party colocation facility), where legacy applications are run.
- Virtual edge services that deliver fast access to networking, automated bare metal and precision time without incurring long, costly delays while waiting for physical implementations.
- Public clouds that provide enterprise-class Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) from providers such as AWS, Microsoft, Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle® Cloud, etc.
- Private Clouds deliver a single tenant cloud environment that runs on dedicated infrastructure, providing IT organizations with better control over infrastructure and the implementation of custom security controls.
- Virtual Private Clouds function like private clouds but run on shared public infrastructure.
Businesses can build digital infrastructure and applications on top of these foundational hybrid infrastructure building blocks that can leverage different consumption models. They can also be strategically placed in the locations that best support core (primary location), edge (close to stakeholders) and ecosystem (ecosystem partner data exchange) deployments as shown in the diagram below.
According to IDC’s market spotlight on Infrastructure modernization for ecosystem-intelligent healthcare platforms, “Healthcare enterprise platforms must undergo massive modernization to enable a patient-intelligent digital core that can leverage smart endpoints (digital edge) and support intelligent engagement with the ecosystem (digital exchange).”[ii]
Why is hybrid infrastructure essential in healthcare?
Like other enterprises, healthcare organizations are looking for greater performance, scalability, security and reliability while reducing costs. As a result, they are turning to hybrid infrastructures that preserve legacy on-premises infrastructure investments, that cannot be immediately retired, and modernize their business operations using a combination of private and public cloud architectures.
Here is when hybrid infrastructure with a hybrid multicloud architecture makes the most sense:
- Some data and applications are just not bound for the cloud. Whether it is to ensure greater security, meet compliance regulations and/or data governance statutes, businesses will keep certain applications and data on-premises.
- For certain workloads, the cloud can be more expensive than housing data and applications on-premises. For example, moving a lot of data frequently in and out of the cloud, can lead to compounding ingress and egress charges that can drive costs up. Additionally, there are other elements to consider such as data replication, storage, disaster recovery, and moving data between cloud environments which further compound costs.
And when it is no longer cost effective to own and manage one’s own data centers, companies are increasingly looking to lease space in third party, colocation data centers for on-prem hybrid IT deployments. This not only lets healthcare IT organizations, retire their existing data center facilities that are often expensive to own and manage, but also enables them to migrate certain non-mission critical workloads and data to the public cloud — changing their consumption model from being CAPEX-intensive to OPEX-driven.
- Hybrid infrastructure enables IT organizations to continue to run legacy infrastructure “as is” in a vendor-neutral data center such as Equinix, while leveraging proximity to the best of hybrid multicloud architectures. For instance, cloud adjacent architectures enable legacy databases to be proximate to cloud services for greater performance.
- On-premises, OPEX-based edge services, such as Equinix Metal™ automated bare metal-as-a-Service (BMaaS) and Network Edge virtual network device services can be leveraged for healthcare companies looking to move workloads out of the cloud into a more secure and cost-effective environment. These “cloud out/edge in” strategies are critical to building successful hybrid infrastructures.
In addition to modernizing their infrastructure and managing the dependencies on certain legacy applications, healthcare IT organizations need to address challenges such as:
- Maintaining the performance of their healthcare platforms and the ability for them to scale.
- Meeting the challenges around data security and governance and adherence to compliance and regulatory requirements.
- Ensuring a good patient/customer experience and cost controls.
- Adopting emerging technologies such as AI, ML, IoT, etc.
This can only be facilitated by a hybrid infrastructure model where legacy applications can run as is, while leveraging hybrid multicloud, and employing the latest healthcare solutions and technologies in a cost-effective OPEX driven consumption model.
Interconnection is the glue for hybrid infrastructure
Over the last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers have increasingly gone digital. Those healthcare companies that survived and performed best during the crisis quickly scaled up using direct and secure interconnection that delivers uninterrupted service and reduces the networking costs to support the increasing demand for digital healthcare services, data exchange and ecosystem collaboration.
Equinix provides the flexibility to deploy core, edge and ecosystem locations in Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers close to stakeholders without having to procure and own cost-prohibitive facilities. These strategies are also essential to leveraging the latest technologies such as AI, ML, real-time analytics and IoT, all critical elements to healthcare providers’ hybrid infrastructure strategies.
Private interconnection solutions, such as Equinix Fabric™,[iii] also enable the exchange of healthcare and life sciences data using secure, low-latency latency one-to-many virtual connections that are more cost-effective than individual physical connections. It provides secure connectivity to clouds and networks at the edge in a pay-as-you-go consumption model. Virtual connections are also easier to provision, accelerating access to critical digital healthcare services at scale via hybrid multicloud architectures.
U.S.-based Sentara Healthcare & Optima Health created a hybrid infrastructure on Platform Equinix® with direct and secure multicloud cloud access so it could respond more quickly and reliably to changing market forces. The successful digital transformation of its network backbone, electronic medical records (EMR) and telehealth platform enabled Sentara to handle the dramatic rise in the patient portal and telemedicine visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are seeing 500% more demand for home interconnectivity over our network. Without the ability to quickly scale network and cloud connections on the Equinix platform, we would not have had the agility to adapt to the sudden changes brought on by the pandemic.”- Matt Douglas, Chief Enterprise Architect, Sentara Healthcare & Optima Health
Hybrid infrastructure equips healthcare and life sciences organizations to create a patient-intelligent healthcare core, deploy lifesaving patient services at the edge and exchange data with key ecosystem participants. These are all essentials for innovation and collaboration in creating disease diagnostics and treatments.
The Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) in Australia partnered with telecommunications provider Optus and Equinix in Sydney to build an interconnection platform solution that supports its Zero Childhood Cancer Initiative. This partnership enables CCI to deploy a secure, reliable, cloud adjacent architecture and offers private connectivity to AWS, Azure and Google for high-speed data processing and complex genomic profiling.
The Equinix Cloud Exchange allows us to have a direct, secure connection into our cloud providers and connect globally to our collaborators so that we can seamlessly integrate with their systems and our systems.”- Emilio Caspanello, ICT Manager, CCI
Delivering a future-proof hybrid infrastructure to healthcare providers
Hybrid infrastructure strategies are crucial to futureproofing digital infrastructures, primarily because they allow healthcare organizations to embrace new dynamics from the core to the edge to the cloud. It also gives them the agility and flexibility to react quickly to sudden changes in the industry.
Dutch medical services provider Fysiologic, wanted to secure sensitive medical data and needed the flexibility to place data in the most efficient and secure location, as well as scale to grow quickly and globally. Fysiologic moved its data to Equinix IBX data centers and dynamically connected its distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems globally on Platform Equinix via Equinix Fabric.
Equinix is a global market leader with data centers in every country we want to operate in. The company gives us the ability to cross-connect or leverage Layer 2 virtual connectivity via Equinix Fabric, making connections faster. And, like us, Equinix sees the value in building an ecosystem of cloud service providers.”- Odin Nijenhuis, Head of Business Development, Damecon
Hybrid infrastructure provides enterprises, such as healthcare organizations, with unprecedented agility and flexibility — where they can continue to leverage legacy IT infrastructure and integrate modern hybrid multicloud architectures and virtual edge services. Digital leaders in healthcare companies typically:
- Deploy hybrid infrastructure at the core and at the edge to underpin their new digital patient services.
- Maximize and streamline interconnection with partner ecosystems.
- Use flexible, on-demand infrastructure – virtual as well as physical – to meet rapidly growing (and changing) demands.
The benefits of a hybrid infrastructure include:
As the world’s digital infrastructure company, Equinix provides a global platform where healthcare organizations and their business partners can build hybrid infrastructure at the core and edge, and directly and securely interconnect with valuable ecosystems (clouds, networks, industry partners, etc.). At the same time, they can address key challenges around security (physical, software, procedural), compliance and industry regulations, scale and availability.
Learn more by reading the Hybrid Infrastructure e-Book.
[i] IDC, “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Health Industry 2021 Predictions,” Oct 2020 , IDC #US45834920.
[ii] IDC Market Spotlight, sponsored by Equinix “Infrastructure Modernization for Ecosystem-Intelligent Healthcare Platforms,” IDC #EUR148082121, August 2021
[iii] The Equinix Cloud Exchange is now known as Equinix Fabric.