Guest Column | January 15, 2020

The Power Of A Hybrid Cloud Storage Infrastructure For Data-Intensive Healthcare Organizations

By Jon Toor, CMO, Cloudian

Move Practice To The Cloud TechnologyAdvice

Today, healthcare organizations (HCOs) are experiencing a “data tsunami.” This is being driven in part by advances in medical imaging and genomic research—with new and larger file types—and it’s also the result of an aging population that is simply using healthcare more. The dramatic growth of data in different formats and systems, along with the sensitivity of that data, presents HCO IT managers with the question of how best to store and manage these digital assets in an increasingly cloud-centric world.

Why A Hybrid Cloud Is The Right Choice

While the word “cloud” is often interpreted as referring to public clouds­—i.e., infrastructure and services managed offsite by a third party—an organization also can deploy an on-premises private cloud in which data is stored and managed by internal staff.

Private cloud environments offer organizations greater control over their data, including complete control over security. This is particularly relevant to HCOs given the patient records and other sensitive data they handle. In addition, some localities have laws mandating that such data be kept on-site.

Another advantage of on-prem private clouds is performance. With local storage, they generally provide better performance than public clouds because the data is located closer to the compute resources, thus reducing latency. Because medical images are capacity-intensive, fast image access demands high data throughput, something that is much more easily achieved with local storage. In the case of HCOs, this can help improve patient outcomes by increasing clinician productivity.

Local data storage offers operating cost advantages as well. For data that is used more frequently, the bandwidth costs of accessing data in public clouds also can be significant, particularly when it involves large capacities. When you factor in all costs, including storage charges, access charges, and bandwidth costs, storing data in a private cloud can be less than half the cost of doing so in a public cloud.

Despite these advantages of private cloud, there is still a role for the public cloud, which is why a hybrid cloud strategy is often the best approach.

Disaster recovery (DR) always has been one of the top use cases for public cloud storage because it’s important to have an offsite copy of data in case of an emergency that renders a private cloud unusable or inaccessible for a period of time. For DR, using the deep archive services available from public cloud is generally cost-efficient because these low-cost services limit their service level agreements on data access. Since the data is accessed only in an emergency, a deep archive service provides a cost-effective insurance policy.

In short, a hybrid cloud approach provides the best of both the private and public worlds. However, in implementing a hybrid cloud strategy, HCOs must ensure they have the right storage foundation.

Why Object Storage Is Essential For Large-Scale Hybrid Clouds

HCOs are seeing data grow to tens of petabytes, introducing unique challenges for these organizations as they try to manage capacity-intensive workloads. This is where object storage really shines, as it’s limitlessly scalable. Object storage manages data as objects that are stored in a flat address space, which eliminates the scaling limitations found in traditional SAN and NAS. The clustered architecture found in object storage makes it very easy to scale out by simply adding additional devices to an existing system. As a result, object storage can easily scale to petabytes and beyond. This is in stark contrast to traditional file storage, which requires organizations to deploy a new storage system once a certain capacity limit is reached, a cumbersome and costly process.

In addition to scalability, object storage is also advantageous due to its flexible geo-distribution. Within a single system, storage devices can be physically located anywhere, giving users at clinics or hospitals access to local, high-performance storage. IT managers benefit from the simplicity of a single, centrally managed system, while remote users get fast access to healthcare information. Traditional storage systems, by contrast, require separate management for each location, thus creating new workload and management expenses for each site.

Object storage also employs the S3 API, which has become the de facto standard for both public and private cloud storage. As a result, object storage provides seamless integration across hybrid cloud environments, unlike file systems that lack S3 support.

Choosing The Right Object Storage Platform For Hybrid Cloud

When looking for an object storage platform to support a hybrid cloud environment, HCOs should keep in mind several key technical considerations.

Single View of Data or Multi-Cloud Controller

A well-managed hybrid environment requires an object storage solution that allows for a single view of the data so that organizations can find and manage data anywhere, whether it’s in an on-prem private cloud or a public cloud. Therefore, HCOs should look for solutions with a multi-cloud controller, providing a unifying element that combines cloud resources into a single management framework. This lets the IT teams centralize policy and reduce risk with granular data management.

Effortless Data Movement Between On-Prem and the Cloud

One of the most important factors of a hybrid cloud environment is data movement between the on-prem private cloud and public cloud components. Data should be able to move seamlessly between the two regardless of data type and size. HCOs should look for an object storage solution that enables storing and retrieving data in real time when needed, using unique features like object streaming and dynamic auto-tiering to public cloud providers. The right storage platform should enable organizations to move data collected on premises, sync the data to the public cloud, generate custom metadata using tools in the cloud, sync the metadata to local storage and then perform machine learning or intelligent search analysis.

S3 Compatibility with Broad Application Support

With the S3 API now the de facto standard for both public and private cloud storage, it is important for an object storage solution to be fully S3 compliant. The highly active S3 developer community continues to generate new applications, and object storage platforms that are natively S3 compliant will enable organizations to integrate with these applications more easily and effectively.


Moving an organization to a hybrid cloud infrastructure is a journey that no organization should take lightly, but the benefits are many. Hybrid clouds provide HCOs with the performance, control, security and benefits of storing data on-premises and the insurance of having a disaster recovery copy of their data in the public cloud. In addition, with the right object storage solution, HCOs can have a limitlessly scalable, highly cost-effective platform spanning both environments.

About The Author

Jon Toor is CMO for Cloudian.