Federal agencies responsible for the healthcare, including the Veterans Affairs (VA), Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health, and the Defense Health Agency, have always had a challenging mission, but during a healthcare crisis the criticality of the mission comes into stark relief. From driving research into the next vital cure to ensuring the health and well being of vulnerable populations, every agency with stake in the nation’s healthcare needs to be connected, agile, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For these reasons the investments that healthcare-focused agencies make are vital to their ability to meet the mission. According to Rob Davies, Executive Vice President at ViON, these agencies are challenged by many factors from legacy IT to tight budgets, and under resourced IT teams. While we all know the impact of the first two challenges, the impact of a tight IT labor market means that IT teams are working with heavy burdens – while they try to keep up with agency-specific IT needs, they’re also trying to keep up with maintenance, security, procurement, to name just a few responsibilities. “Agencies, like the HHS and VA, have moved swiftly in terms of embracing the Cloud Smart mandate and devising a data strategy that enables the use of a hybrid environment with data centers as well as public and private clouds, to build a robust and agile data environment,” Davies explained. “However even with this strategy in place operating a complex data environment is still a heavy lift.”
What Rob’s colleague, Don Moran, Federal Healthcare Manager, at ViON recommends is that agencies looking to continue to optimize their data storage and management environments consider adopting infrastructure as-a-Service (IaaS). IaaS takes all elements of data center technology and turns them into a service. “Imagine being able to provision additional storage and compute capacity as a service and also be able to keep pace with archiving, data protection, and data analytics because when the infrastructure is procured as a service these services are included,” Moran explained. “Think of not only the cost savings, which are significant, but also the time saved, and the efficiencies created by having the support of an expert project team whose focus is solely on the agency’s data management infrastructure. Moreover, with the agency’s in-house team no longer managing the data management infrastructure they’re freed up to address in-house IT issues that are typically relegated to the back burner.”
There’s another unexpected bonus to shifting from buying infrastructure to adopting an ‘as-a-Service’ subscription model – the ability to continue to procure capacity even when spending restrictions are in place. “Over the last few years there have been numerous disruptions to government spending and the current CAPEX freeze because of the coronavirus pandemic is just the latest,” Moran shared. “However when an agency shifts to IaaS the cost shifts from CAPEX to OPEX and procurement is not affected. This is particularly important right now as agencies shift to remote work and as healthcare delivery shifts to telemedicine capacity needs to scale at speed. Technology and the ability to manage it must be as agile as possible to match the highly fluid conditions.”
With flexibility, continuity, scalability, and, of course, cost all priorities for federal IT leaders it seems like the time is right for agencies to embrace IaaS. Not only will it yield results in terms of the bottom line, but by introducing the agility that agencies need to not only manage an ever-evolving mission but to also respond to global events, it will ensure that each agency tasked with the vital mission of supporting citizen health has the resources and capacity to be successful regardless of global pandemics, funding freezes, or whatever else comes our way.