September 22, 2022

Article
3 min

Improving Management in Complex Healthcare Cloud Environments

DevOps and Infrastructure as Code can simplify IT operations for healthcare organizations, but success won’t come overnight.

Doug McMillian

Healthcare as an industry tends to be slower on the uptake with new technology than some other sectors. The reasons are understandable. Hospitals are often large, complex organizations, and any IT change that might affect patient care — even indirectly — must be studied and tested to the point of exhaustion. 

This fact means that most healthcare organizations were a little later than companies in other industries to adopt cloud computing models. Many are only now beginning to look at ways to optimize and automate their cloud environments to reduce complexity. 

Processes and technologies such as DevOps and Infrastructure as Code can have huge benefits, but it takes time, effort and expertise to implement them. To achieve sustainable cloud success, we advise healthcare organizations to take a crawl-walk-run approach to their optimization and automation efforts.

Crawl: Taking Simple Steps Toward Automation

In the early stages of improving cloud management, healthcare IT leaders should look at automating or optimizing a single repetitive task. Provisioning switches or servers, for example, can eat up hours that IT professionals could be spending on more strategic tasks. By creating a prepackaged script for standard configurations, organizations can transition to more of a plug-and-play deployment model for their infrastructure. 

Again, these sorts of repeatable, rote tasks are needed to support a hospital’s operations, but they’re not strategic. Automating them might save a couple of hours per event, and those efficiencies can add up over time.

Walk: Expanding Your Organization’s Use of Automated Processes

After healthcare IT departments get their feet wet with one-off automations, they should turn their attention to stacking these processes on top of each other in ways that provide an even greater benefit. For instance, rather than provisioning an individual server, an IT shop may be tasked with setting up a three-tier application that requires a web server, an application server and a database server. 

Writing an automation script for this sort of setup is a little more complex than automating a single event. However, IT shops that have already tackled the “crawl” stage will generally be well positioned to orchestrate an entire three-tier application (perhaps with a bit of upskilling).

Run: Deploying Full-Scale, Cloud-Based Automation

Here, we’re talking about applying automation and optimization across an entire cloud environment, or at least as much of the environment as is practical. This may include Domain Name System, Active Directory, backup and recovery, connectivity and other aspects of an organization’s cloud ecosystem. Where possible, IT shops should enable self-service through IT service management platforms such as ServiceNow

Looking back to before the “crawl” stage of cloud automation and optimization, it’s easy to see what an enormous change this represents. Before, the infrastructure team would have been part of nearly every IT project team, manually building out batches of servers to fulfill requests for resources. After the “run” stage, by contrast, an application team can access those same resources — complete with backups, security controls and everything else that previously would have required an engineer — through an automated self-service portal, without ever involving the infrastructure team.

How to Begin Your Healthcare Organization’s Journey to the Cloud

Typically, organizations aren’t holding off on improving their cloud management because they don’t think it’s important. Rather, they often lack staff with the skills — or even simply the time — to get an initiative like this off the ground. Many of our healthcare customers turn to CDW as a trusted partner to help them develop their DevOps and Infrastructure as Code efforts, train their IT staff members and help them start seeing the efficiencies that come with effective cloud management.

Story by Doug McMillian, the director of healthcare for Sirius Computer Solutions, a CDW company.