A Different Take on Healthcare’s Quandary with VMware

Author: Matt Ferrari
Co-Founder and Former CTO

Last month, I spent some time attending VMworld in Las Vegas.  I’ve had the opportunity to attend VMworld for about a decade now, and I’ve seen massive changes inside the VMware ecosystem during that time.  This year, my primary objective was to gather details around the VMware Cloud on AWS offering.  Originally announced around AWS Re:Invent last year, the opportunity to run VMware- based tools on top of AWS S3 is something I found to be intriguing, especially when surveying healthcare organizations.

The truth is, almost every healthcare provider or payer runs a VMware-based stack within their data centers.  While they have put new critical applications into a public cloud, the process of moving legacy applications out of their facilities is a work in progress.  Protected Health Information, or PHI, is living everywhere.  This sensitive data is not just inside PACS imaging systems and EMRs, but is spread across many systems.  On the hardware side, this likely means that it’s still sitting in the provider or payer’s data center, on encrypted storage devices such as EMC, NetApp, or IBM.  Historically, as healthcare organizations moved outside of using physical server installations, previously known as dedicated servers, they moved to VMware hypervisor-based technology in order to keep their critical health applications running.

Now, let’s think like a CIO of a major hospital system for a moment.  You have over a decade of VMware experience in your facilities, but you’ve been deploying new applications into the public cloud, like AWS or Google Cloud Platform.  From a budgetary perspective, your strategy is to move out of your own data centers, going from a CAPEX to OPEX model, in order to drive efficiencies around scale, availability, flexibility, and security.  The IT professionals on your team are vCloud certified and they know the VMware technologies, such as vCenter, VMware NSX, and vSAN inside and out.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could accelerate your adoption of public cloud but still use the same tooling that your hospital IT team are seasoned in?  I thought so, too.

So, now that we know a use case for healthcare, let’s talk about some of the technical details that came from VMworld this year.  Think about VMware Cloud on AWS as vSphere, vSAN and NSX running on bare-metal servers inside AWS.

Features include:

  • VMware NSX at the core of the network architecture, allowing workloads to move between on-prem and AWS.
  • Support for both containers and traditional Virtual Machines.
  • Direct access to native AWS services.
  • Access to vCenter Server for your healthcare IT team, as well as access to VMware Cloud on AWS (via IPSEC VPN).

VMware Cloud on AWS is only available in one region today, but VMware is working on stretching the Software Defined Data Center between AWS availability zones.  VMware High Availability (HA), DRS, and vSAN will then balance workloads between availability zones and provide failover between zones in case of outage.

One of the concerns for healthcare organizations will be licensing, as they have likely invested in perpetual VMware licensing over time.  VMware themselves are attempting to mitigate this through discount programs as healthcare organizations try to make the flip into the public cloud.  Over the next few months, I’ll be interested to see how this offering progresses, specifically as it comes to performance and healthcare’s overall interpretation on complexity of this solution.  VMware Cloud on AWS is now generally available, and you can read further by visiting https://aws.amazon.com/vmware/.

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