Looking at the Future of Data Storage in Healthcare

This week I’m in Austin for the annual Pure Storage user and partner conference called Pure Accelerate. If you want to follow the event on Twitter, you can do so at the hashtag #PureAccelerate or just follow @techguy on Twitter for the healthcare related tweets. While I sometimes feel like I need to change my Twitter name from techguy when I attend an event like this, it also gives me a good look into the complexity of what’s happening in the data storage space and and idea of where it’s all headed.

After my first day’s discussions, it seems like there are two important things a healthcare CIO should consider when it comes to future data storage. The first thing that seems to be clear is that we’re going to need to figure out how to manage data storage across a wide variety of storage locations. While many CIOs and other leaders are pushing an all cloud future, it’s become increasingly clear that the future of data storage in healthcare is going to be a mix of on premise, private cloud, and public cloud (including multi-cloud). Maybe one day we’ll get to a fully cloud world, but until the applications effectively support the cloud effectively, on premise solutions are going to be in our future. In healthcare, that means we’re going to have on premise solutions for a while. And to be clear, from a data storage perspective, using a private cloud option is very similar to an on premise solution. Given this, it would be wise to consider how you’re going to manage all your data storage across each of these disparate options.

Talking with a number of people from Pure Storage, I asked what Pure Storage could offer healthcare organizations when it came to cloud storage. Their responses suggested two things. First, they want to provide their users a similar, familiar interface and toolset regardless of whether the storage was on one of the Pure Storage arrays or in the cloud. This sounds nice and is valuable, but wasn’t as compelling as their second observation. They suggested that while cloud computing has seen a lot of innovation and new features, cloud storage has been kept pretty bare bones. This rang true to me and my experience with cloud hosting providers. Obviously, Pure Storage sees this as an opportunity to provide their on premise data storage feature set to those storing data in the cloud.

While Pure Storage seems to be taking a measured approach to this, they’re certainly serious about providing their customers data storage innovation in the cloud. Pure Storage is already available on Amazon AWS and today they announced support for Microsoft Azure. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until they announce the trifecta and support Google Cloud as well. It’s not hard to see how powerful it is for a healthcare organization to be able to move their data storage between various data storage solutions including public and private clouds. More importantly, being able to seamlessly manage all of these data storage options in one place seems like where data storage is headed even if healthcare’s legacy applications will hold on to on premise storage solutions for a while to come. New applications you deploy will need the cloud and many of these applications will need cloud data storage.

Another important thing healthcare CIOs should consider when it comes to data storage is whether they should start supporting data storage as a service. This is definitely a shift in mindset. However, this shift is something that many health IT organizations have already experienced when they shifted to virtual server infrastructure. Instead of buying a new server for every new project, most healthcare organizations now roll out virtual servers as needed. Should the same be done with data storage?

In many organizations, data storage is still bought based on specific projects. While this may make sense from a procurement process perspective and there may be reasons to separate the data storage for things like business continuity and disaster recovery, it often doesn’t make sense from a cost perspective. Can we reach the point where all the data storage can be made available to any application as it’s needed regardless of where the data is stored and which application needs it? It seems like we’re heading that direction.

What’s your take on data storage in your organization? Are you providing data storage as a service to your “customers”? How do you see yourself managing data storage across on premise, private cloud, and public cloud options?

Note: Pure Storage covered my expenses to travel to the event.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.