A Bright Multi-Cloud Future for Health Tech – with Privacy Front of Mind

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A few things stood out for me from this year’s overview of the state of the technology sector – known as venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins’ Internet Trends Report 2017, it is one of the most widely read (and extensive) reports in the industry.

  • Cloud buyers are keen to try multiple vendors, meaning that multi-cloud is now a reality, and the main drive for them here is increasing concern about vendor lock-in.
  • About 94 percent of all cloud apps have serious security and compliance issues, yet hundreds of them are being used in major business sectors.
  • Email spam, which is increasingly at the root of network breaches, rose by 350 percent from the first quarter of 2015 to the first three months of this year.
  • Healthcare technology is booming thanks to cloud computing and wearables.

When it comes to cloud computing, the report called out a sharp increase in the number of buyers who see the possibility of lock-in as one of their top three concerns in moving to the cloud, with 22 percent citing that as an important concern in 2015 compared to just seven percent of buyers who thought this was a major concern in 2012, according to data from Bain’s Cloud Computing Survey. Concerns about lock-in are nothing new, but they have become more pronounced over the last few years as AWS consolidates its market dominance and continues to crank out compelling new features that require customization work to employ which results in lock-in. Indeed the moment you start developing to Amazon’s proprietary APIs and feature sets and adopting the higher-level features that require such customization, or committing to 3 year “reserved instances” to secure the best price, you are locking yourself in.

Buyers appear to be responding by taking a multi-cloud approach and showing greater interest in containers – both tactics that would reduce your dependency on a single cloud vendor.

At the same time the high number of cloud apps that have serious security and compliance issues should be of real concern. Our own research highlighted very real worries in the UK with data privacy – with 75% of British adults being concerned about the protection of their personal data. Obviously, a multi-cloud strategy in which the most privacy-sensitive data sets and workloads are assigned to the most secure and compliant cloud providers makes perfect sense. While day to day workloads can be assigned to Office 365 or Azure, specialist providers with higher levels of assurance are better at protecting the privacy of Patient Identifiable Data and enabling collaboration across government networks, such as N3, HSCN, Janet and PSN. Again our research found that the UK public expressed a strong preference for their sensitive data to be stored and processed by cloud providers that are UK-based with UK-sovereign data centres and have connectivity to such secure government networks.

However, whatever we do in our multi-cloud strategy to place sensitive datasets and workloads with the most secure and compliant cloud providers, the weakest link in the security chain will always remain the user. This makes the increase in email spam of enormous concern. Spam and techniques such as phishing are the primary source of network breaches and the kind of malware infections that recently impacted the NHS and businesses across the rest of the world. User education will therefore always be a critical component of any security strategy.

All of this comes to the fore when we look at the explosive growth of cloud computing and wearables in the healthcare sector. The Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends Report dedicated 31 pages to “Healthcare @ The Digital Inflection Point” highlighting how technology and the Internet are transforming the health sector.

To aid the development of new medicines, digitization of medical data is causing the total amount of medical knowledge to double every 3.5 years, when back in 1950 it took 50 years to double. The increased availability of health data is helping to accelerate clinical trials as well as encouraging collaboration with the scientific community.

This accumulation of what is referred to as “Digitally Native Health-Related Data Sets,” includes data from medical establishments as well as data taken directly from consumers from the proliferation of wearable devices. According to the report, global wearable shipments hit 102 million in 2016, a figure five times higher than 2014. Indeed, 25 percent of Americans now own a wearable device and even more are likely to buy one in the future.

UKCloud is working with innovators as pioneers in this area, such as Drayson Technologies with its IoT solutions for diabetes, and Cinos Technologies which offer WebEx based virtual consultation services.

All this means that the potential for innovation in healthcare has never been greater, but then again so has the potential risk of the most privacy-sensitive datasets falling into the wrong hands. There is no reason that the full transformational potential of this new wave of Health technology cannot be fully exploited with incredible potential gains, as long as privacy is top of mind in any multi-cloud strategy.