By now, we’ve all seen the data showing how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies, including cloud. McKinsey and Company’s recent Global Survey of executives concluded that many of these changes could be here for the long haul. This is especially true for cloud, as companies continue to benefit from its ability to support remote customer interaction and remote working. In our previous blog, we built a common understanding of cloud fundamentals. Now, let’s examine how a typical laboratory begins adopting cloud technologies as part of its IT ecosystem.
Cloud Adoption Lifecycle
At a high level, the cloud adoption lifecycle can be broken down into six key phases:
- Assess Needs
- Choose Partner
- Start Production
For the purposes of this blog, let’s focus on the first two items of this lifecycle. These two areas are critical in ensuring the success of your cloud project, and typically where the most planning and execution is required.
Assessing your Laboratory’s Needs
A needs assessment is a critical first step in developing your laboratory’s cloud adoption strategy. The needs assessment will help you identify the key drivers for your cloud vision.
First, at the foundational level, the needs assessment will help you identify the non-flexible constraints to which you must adhere. Regulatory compliance is the number one driver for how cloud is adopted. Whether you operate under GxP, store Protected Health Information (PHI), or integrate with healthcare data (such as EHRs), these regulatory constraints have a huge impact on how you will adopt new technologies. This, as well internal policies, can dictate how much control an organization must maintain over its cloud environments.
Second, you must assess how you want to interact with the cloud environment. How will your users access the cloud environment? How will other core systems interact with the cloud? A major consideration in this category is the need for integration with more adjacent items like laboratory equipment, to more intrinsic workloads such as ERPs or MRPs. Capacity is also critical and can be thought of in terms of performance needs, and user behaviors. Are technologies accessed by scientists in all your labs across the globe, or only by a few groups? Are you processing huge amounts of genomic data daily, or primarily managing samples?
Finally, it is without question that it benefits you to go into a cloud discussion with the future in mind. Whether you are looking to grow organically, seeking to acquire new companies, or be acquired yourself. Setting yourself up in advance for this type of activity can save you significant effort in the future.
Choosing a Cloud Partner
With your laboratory’s needs identified, you can now start mapping these needs to the services offered by cloud and cloud service providers.
Consider the security capabilities of the cloud service provider. The ability to protect your information and systems is most important in the cloud. Key topics include confidentiality and integrity of data, identifying and managing who can see and do what with privilege management, protecting systems, and establishing controls to detect security events. Evaluate the encryption capabilities. Look for the ability to encrypt data in transit and at rest. When it comes to compliance, you should look for audit trails for everything that happens in the cloud. Your partner and cloud vendor should offer services like AWS CloudTrail, which tracks every event in AWS and can trigger alerts for unusual activity. Be sure your partner can meet all HIPAA and compliance requirements you’ve identified. Finally, consider the separation of resources available from your cloud provider. A secure cloud environment should separate resources into many layers.
You should also evaluate the reliability of the cloud service provider. Understand what the provider is doing to prevent and quickly recover from failures to meet your business needs. What backup processes are in place? How long are backups retained? Can the provider restore your system to a point in time? Are multiple availability zones used? Does the environment offer self-healing capabilities for hardware failures? Scalability is another reliability consideration. Can the vendor set thresholds for automatic scaling?
Next, assess the performance efficiency of your partner. Performance efficiency focuses on using IT and computing resources efficiently when addressing uneven workloads. Key topics include selecting the right resource types and sizes based on workload requirements, monitoring performance, and making informed decisions to maintain efficiency as business needs evolve.
Cost optimization is another important factor to weigh. Be sure you understand and control where money is being spent. Choose a partner who will help select the most appropriate and right number of resource types, analyze spend over time, and scale to meet your business needs without overspending. Discuss options like paying on demand vs. purchasing reserved instances at a discounted cost. Decommissioning unused resources also helps reduce costs.
Finally, consider the partner’s reputation for operational excellence when evaluating cloud partners. When weighing operational excellence for a cloud project, choose a partner that focuses on running and monitoring systems to deliver business value, while continually improving processes and procedures. Evaluate the partner’s ability to manage and automate changes, respond to events, and define standards to successfully manage daily operations. Look for Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/DI) capabilities, automation capabilities, and infrastructure as code capabilities.
Starting your Cloud Journey on the Right Path
Completing your needs assessment and choosing the right partner will help ensure a smooth transition to the cloud. You’ll be able to build and deploy faster, since you’ll understand your capacity needs and can test systems at scale and automate. You’ll lower or mitigate risk, since you’ll have risks identified and addressed before your applications are in production. You’ll make informed architectural decisions understanding the impacts on application performance/availability and business outcomes.
If your organization is thinking about cloud, watch our Leveraging Cloud: The Benefits of adopting cloud-based solutions webinar on demand to learn more.