The story of the battle between Alternating Current and Distributed Current pitted two legends against each other, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Edison believed in DC because it was safer, but it required a power plant on every street corner. Tesla backed AC because he could build a single generator at the edge of town and power an entire city. Economies kicked in and AC won out.
The same story has been used as an analogy for the cloud-based Internet data center. There have been many articles and books that have predicted that the same path would be taken to determine how we do computing in the future. Current trends would appear to be confirming this hypothesis. The company data center is slowly being replaced by large computing factories at the edge of town.
I recently sat with a CIO who doesn’t own a single data center for a billion-dollar business. No raised floor, no CRAC units, and no PDUs or racks — he has knitted together a group of cloud-based technologies to deliver all the services that his organization requires.
His staff is lean and agile. He boasts that he has tens of thousands of developers working for him, and he doesn’t pay them until they deliver a product that he needs. He says this because he utilizes platforms that have massive ecosystems of developers and entrepreneurs, all working on new solutions for the market.
Robert Rice and I orchestrated a $6B health systems move to the cloud in 2014. I would like to introduce you to a model similar to the one we utilized, to map out this work.
Begin with the End in Mind
What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to go? A move to the cloud just to say that you moved to the cloud is a bad reason to do this work. We believed that our cost structure would have to come down and our services would have to remain the same (or better) at some point.
Healthcare goes through cycles, for sure, but we believed that in a future cycle money would have to be diverted to more strategic tasks. We needed new levels of automation, efficiency, reliability, and security in order to be ready for this eventuality.
A Move to the Cloud is not a Migration, it is a Transformation Opportunity
We quickly realized that this project was not going to be a lift and shift exercise. The underlying technology has changed. A move to the cloud is an opportunity to address deficiencies in the current operation and deliver a higher level of utility from these investments.
With this new realization, we mapped out what was possible in the cloud and overlaid that onto our environment. When you approach the project in this direction, you realize that the problem isn’t the new technology, but your legacy tech, that has to be addressed.
We adopted a cloud-based identity framework to augment our on-prem active directory. We brought in tools for automation, such as SCCM for workstation deployments. However, we doubled down on our virtual clinical environment and realized, even more, efficiencies within our Citrix environment.
We analyzed our servers and found over 100 images. The team was able to simplify our environment down to six images. The simplification alone brought significant benefits.
Anytime you can reduce complexity, you improve everything about managing an IT environment.
You Direct the Move
We all know by now that there is more than one cloud. We decided that it was important to use the right cloud for the right application.
We knew the level of interoperability, security, automation, and continuity we needed from each cloud vendor. We instructed them on how we would handle identity and access. The selection of each cloud environment was strategic and thought through.
Many healthcare organizations select a vendor and then adopt their model for moving to the cloud. That can work, as long as the vendor has a solution that is flexible enough to match your company’s business objectives.
One of the things we found was that many vendors had long-term contracts and fee structures, which made getting into their system easy but getting out much harder.
The implication with this structure being: Why would you ever want to get out? The answer, of course, is because we don’t know the future.
We encourage our clients to own the architecture, the security model, the steps, and the process to get to the cloud.
The benefits of our move to the cloud was a significant increase in efficiency, agility, capability, and productivity. Staff could now provision a new server in minutes instead of weeks. Migrations, patching, upgrades, moves were all made easier with the move to the cloud. Software as a service applications brought significant productivity improvements into our organization by taking mundane tasks that staff did daily like file sharing and modernizing the entire process. Apps like Box, Workday, Salesforce Communities, and others gave us new tools for empowering the staff.
We are on the cusp of computer learning and intelligence being added to all sorts of enterprise applications. These capabilities will arrive on cloud platforms first. Yesterday I was able to see how Box will add intelligence in the first part of next year to their cloud-based file sharing and collaboration platform. The result will change the way we interact with information.
At Health Lyrics, we do IT and Digital Transformation – we are operational leaders helping operational leaders make the move. We’ve been in your shoes and we know how to get this done. We have templates, models, architecture, and project plans that can be adapted to your unique environment. If you want to discuss your project, drop us a line and we’ll schedule a call.
In case you’re curious, here is a summary of our own experience in moving to the cloud.