November 2021 - Ostride Labs
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Healthcare Data Migration and Cloud Solutions in the Medical Industry

cloud solutions in the medical industry

Healthcare Data Migration and Cloud Solutions in the Medical Industry

It’s been a long time coming, but the medical industry is finally embracing the cloud and all the benefits that come with it. For hospitals, migrating to the cloud wasn’t as straightforward as first thought. Considering the highly confidential data they handle, the effectiveness of cloud security has come into question. Moreover, the complex nature of cloud migration tools such as GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine) may have caused further confusion, putting many off adopting this new technology due to misunderstanding and worry. 

In terms of technological progression, healthcare is more often than not at the forefront. Consider nanotechnology or 4D ultrasounds, for example. On the other hand, development and investment in IT infrastructure usually falls behind other sectors. Cloud computing solutions are a prime example. The healthcare industry has famously been one of the last industries to take the leap. Until a couple of years ago, that is.

Medical organizations looking for a flexible yet secure solution for storing and accessing large collections of data are steadily shifting to cloud data migration.  

While increasingly lower setup and support costs are now big attractions of cloud storage, medical institutions can also benefit from the versatility that cloud data migration can offer.  

Community health management, value-based care, and an ever-growing mobile user base require a storage infrastructure that can scale easily without requiring cumbersome investments into time and capital.

To take advantage of the cloud, however, companies need to correctly plan for this data migration process. Creating an effective and efficient data migration roadmap involves deciding which datasets and applications need to be moved to the cloud and what tools are available to facilitate the migration process.

 

The challenges of cloud migration for the medical industry

The cloud is far different than what IT leaders and executives are used to deploying in their legacy infrastructure environments. Medical organizations should begin with a solid understanding of the processes involved and skills required at all stages of the migration journey, including management and maintenance requirements.

Security and privacy

These have always been the main objections put forward by healthcare organizations when things like EHRs (Electronic Health Records) are at stake. However, the success and safety of online banking, for example, has quashed privacy concerns about the online storage of confidential medical records. Today’s leading cloud providers, including Google and Amazon, employ highly advanced protection and security far beyond that used by typical hospitals to keep their client’s data secure.

The confidentiality and privacy of medical information are, obviously, of paramount concern here. To learn more about medical privacy and the cloud, read our recent blog post discussing the benefits of cloud computing and effective cloud security solutions here: https://ostridelabs.com/medical-privacy-and-cloud-computing-security-solutions/

Data location and ownership

While there are strict rules relating to the use of the cloud for healthcare data, regulations preventing its use have slowly been relaxed. Today, there is an open market where healthcare providers can choose where and how they manage their data online.

Funding models

Funding models continue to be an obstacle, with hospitals and organizations working on ways to more easily procure cloud technologies. In a lot of cases, an IT policy may mandate a strategy that looks to incorporate cloud technologies, but the procurement department will not approve such purchases. Until these barriers are defeated and the benefits of cloud migration can be easily communicated on a larger scale to entire organizations, hospitals’ pathways to the cloud will stay blocked.

 

Cloud Migration Solutions

Simply, data migration includes:

 

  • Transferring data from legacy systems to the cloud.
  • Restructuring data for PII/PHI separation and encryption. 
  • Making sure the systems are made to be cloud-native.
  • Ensuring security via efficient network isolation controls with the least privilege. 

 

The migration process can be viewed as numerous iterative cycles where each application and its data is moved from its origin to its new cloud destination, one by one. To ensure a smooth transition, a tactic employed by many cloud solution providers is to use machine learning to find errors or misplaced data points when collecting data from multiple applications. 

 

Similar automation can also assure compliance with corporate policies and security standards established by the CTO, CIO, or CISO for the company. The DevOps team can also include phase gates to make sure policies are obeyed throughout the data life cycle.

 

For compliance purposes, PHI/PII data has to be physically isolated from the rest of the operational data. With the appropriate application of data encryption and least privilege combined with physical separation of data per tenant in the case of multi-tenant systems, the chance of data being held at ransom can be reduced. This also significantly reduces the absolute damage in case of a breach.

 

Furthermore, an open API standard system enables a security team to view how interactions are taking place between data repositories and how APIs are interacting with various databases. To allow applications to interact while remaining separate and secure, the mechanism working the API system needs network isolation control and the enforcement of least privilege. This provides the ability to observe the interference between databases and analyze possible threats.

 

Lastly, encrypting all communications is important. No organization can expect consistent vigilance from those using internal or external communication channels. At some point, patients, employees, or providers may share sensitive information. Encryption ensures that this information can not be retrieved by a wrongdoer.


The keys to a successful cloud migration

Cloud migration is complicated but necessary for healthcare organizations. Proper planning and consideration of workloads, applications, and the future of the industry, allow organizations to embrace the cloud for eventual data expansion and flexibility. These five key considerations can also be thought of as an effective roadmap to successful cloud migration.

  1. Choose The Right Cloud Service Partner 

While some medical organizations already have the internal technical expertise to successfully perform a cloud migration, the majority will have to procure the assistance of external partners. When selecting the right partner, it’s important to examine their past experience on similar projects, previous clients, and their readiness to address inquiries or concerns specific to your cloud migration. 

  1. Create a Long-Term Migration Strategy

Data migration should not be employed as a quick fix. While it may solve immediate problems, healthcare organizations should be making projections for at least five years in the future when making important decisions. For example, in the case of cloud migration, it is crucial to plan for future capacity requirements and forecast tech trends. Without considering long-term needs, healthcare providers will most likely have to engage in another expensive data migration in the next couple of years.

  1. Define the Data for Migration

Not every cloud migration demands a total relocation of all applications and data available. In a few instances, some legacy systems and data might be left in their place or transferred to a different location from the other data assets due for cloud migration.

Because of this, taking a comprehensive inventory of all current data assets and determining whether or not to move them is necessary. When data has to be transferred, the selected destination must be identified and defined. Above everything, this will limit delays and confusion when the migration reaches a critical stage and changes become more expensive and challenging to implement.

  1. Keep Data Integrity

This ensures that data stays consistent, accurate, and reliable while migrating between systems. Sufficient error checking and validation methods must be in place to make sure that data is not changed or duplicated during the transfer.

The majority of the work needed to maintain data integrity should be done at the pre-planning stage. It shouldn’t be assumed that there will be a direct relationship between fields and data types. For example, mistakes could occur that would leave patient records inaccessible or incomplete. Implementing a manual check to monitor the success of an electronic migration process is essential.

  1. Consider using a Hybrid Cloud Solution

Utilize using a cloud-based storage solution to augment your on-premises storage, instead of relying on one or the other. The majority of cloud service providers now offer better overall security and access restrictions than the best equipped internal IT teams can provide. Cloud infrastructure allows healthcare organizations to swiftly acquire more storage and computing resources as needed.

While regulatory compliance rules require healthcare providers to have in-house servers for the storage of sensitive data, most patient health records can actually be stored and managed in the cloud. Using a hybrid system that incorporates both internal servers and a cloud infrastructure may prove to be the best solution for large healthcare providers.

 

Conclusion

Migrating data and applications to the Cloud is not just a new, interesting initiative. There is actually a pressing urgency for healthcare organizations to move their data to the cloud and to make their systems cloud-native. In today’s technological environment, however, these providers must take a broader view to ensure lasting security and efficiency.

 

Healthcare organizations will gain plenty of advantages from the cloud once their data is successfully migrated. It will make their data more readily available while lowering operational costs and maintaining privacy. However, it’s important to carry out comprehensive planning before undertaking a cloud migration.

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K3S vs K8S – when to use each if you’re concerned about cloud security solutions?

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K3S vs K8S – when to use each if you’re concerned about cloud security solutions?

Kubernetes is unquestionably the most popular container orchestration tool, used by companies of all sizes around the world to migrate and host applications in the cloud. But, there has been a new addition of K3s, also known as lightweight Kubernetes, which is a smaller, simpler, more efficient, and faster version that accomplishes the same goals and has a smaller footprint.

Businesses nowadays scratch their heads when trying to figure out when to use K3s or K8s in their production. Deciding between them is a critical consideration for enterprises that are undertaking a digital transformation or want to migrate cloud-ready systems and applications to the cloud, as security solutions differ between the two. Each presents unique benefits and drawbacks that may lend themselves to certain companies and applications. So, let’s discuss what makes K3s and K8s different and when each should be used when cloud security is concerned. 

What is Kubernetes (K8s)?

We have a whole separate blog post dedicated to defining K8s, discussing its advantages, and detailing its use cases, so we won’t spend too much time on it here. That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to quickly refresh our memories:

Kubernetes, or K8s, is the most popular microservices container orchestration platform, eliminating many of the manual processes involved in deploying, managing, and scaling containerized applications.

Read more here: Kubernetes in Cloud Migration Solutions


What is K3s and how does it differ from K8s?

K3s is a lighter version of the Kubernetes distribution tool, developed by Rancher Labs, and is a completely CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) accredited Kubernetes distribution. This means that YAML can be written to work on normal Kubernetes and will operate as intended against a K3s cluster. 

 

In K3s, the memory trace or binary containing components to run a cluster is much smaller than that of K8s. Actually, K3s is specifically designed to be a single binary under 40MB that fully implements the Kubernetes API. To accomplish this, the developers removed many additional drivers that did not need to be there and were easily replaced with add-ons.

 

Thanks to its minimal resource requirements, it’s possible to run a cluster on a machine with at least 512MB of RAM, allowing pods and nodes to run on the master. Additionally, because it’s a small binary, it can be installed in a fraction of the time required to launch a K8s cluster! Generally speaking, it takes under two minutes to launch a k3s cluster with a couple of nodes, meaning apps can be deployed for learning and testing purposes in no time.

 

Both its adoption and reputation are growing swiftly too, with monthly users growing by the thousands, all while being crowned the best new developer tool by Stackshare in 2019.

 

Advantages of K3s

While K8s has many notable benefits, including its flexibility, portability, scalability, and ability to seamlessly accommodate much larger configurations, it is not the best choice in many situations. K3s edges ahead in many areas.

 

Small Size

The primary advantage of K3s is that it is small in size, under 100 MB, in fact, which allows it to launch a K8s cluster on smaller hardware with the least settings.

Fast Deployment

K3s can be installed and deployed with one command in less than 30 seconds.

Lightweight

Due to their small memory footprint, the Kubernetes can be up and running imminently, meaning that the binary, which comprises all the non-containerized components needed to run a cluster, can be much smaller.

Continuous Integration

Due to their small size and lightweight environment, continuous integration is more straightforward. It helps in automating the integration of codes from numerous contributors into a singular project.

Perfect for IoT and Edge Computing

Thanks to effective support for ARM64 and ARMv7, K3s is highly efficient for Kubernetes distribution in production workloads for resource-restrained IoT devices.

Simplified and Secure

A single binary file under 100 MB is able to package K3s, making it simple and easy to secure with far fewer complications.

 

K3s, K8s, and Cloud Security

For certain industries, such as healthcare or banking, where data privacy is imperative,  the security of their cloud environment or cloud-based applications and data will be the primary concern. While the choice between K3s and K8s may be forced due to the size of applications, data, and infrastructure required, it might be important to consider selecting the suboptimal option if it provides better security.

 

Before we continue, it’s important to point out that K3s benefit from tighter security deployment than regular Kubernetes thanks to their small attack surface area.

 

While it might be cumbersome to utilize K3s to secure clusters for cloud migration and hosting of large applications and vast amounts of data, the extra time and effort required may be beneficial if security is heightened.

 

For example, for an industry such as healthcare that has been slow to undertake digital transformations because of complex decisions surrounding private health records, the more secure K3s may be preferred.


Should You Choose K3s or K8s?

It is evident that both K3s and K8s have their advantages and disadvantages which make them uniquely different from each other, while on the face of it, it may seem that they are two similar versions of the same thing. Both are very useful, but given various business and usability situations, certain features can have a marked impact.

 

We have seen how K8s can benefit large systems and applications, and with that in mind, large enterprises with an abundance of critical data that distribute their workload via several cloud servers may choose to use K8s, which will benefit them in many ways.

 

Small-to-medium-sized businesses may decide to use both K3s and K8s because the actual application size will not remain constant throughout its lifecycle. It will be beneficial for them to use K8s to cope with the heavy workload, but to quickly and efficiently test a single cluster in smaller productions, K3s provide many lean advantages. Keeping a steady balance between K8s and K3s helps businesses save crucial time and money while maintaining an efficient and agile workflow.

 

Small businesses that do not deal with large applications often automatically select K3s because they are much quicker at deploying applications with smaller workloads, and installation, operation, and updates are easy.

 

Developers that spend a lot of time with IoT (Internet of Things), and edge computing have a sizable advantage when choosing K3s as their chosen Kubernetes distributor. Especially considering they will be working with resources that contain low-end computational hardware such as Raspberry Pi. K3s use one small binary file that runs on IoT devices thanks to ARMv7 and ARM64 support.


Conclusion

K8s solved the distributed computing dilemma but has since become rather complex. Rancher took all Kubernetes’ principal workflows and modified the tool into a lighter version of Kubernetes, named K3s.

 

Now you know about the important differences between K3s and its predecessor, K8s, and which situations are best to use each one, such as when using a Raspberry Pi or ARM device, or if you just want to easily set up a simple and quick development environment. This is also an important benefit for businesses that will be migrating applications to a cloud cluster such as GKE or Azure, as the transition becomes easier.

 

Moreover, when considering continuous everything as it relates to a specific system or application, companies may find utilizing a set of principles such as GitOps to be easier and more efficient with K3s. GitOps merges Git with Kubernetes’ convergence features and works as an operating framework for creating and delivering Kubernetes-based environments and applications.

 

You might think k3s is the superior option to regular Kubernetes (K8s), but limitations do exist. Currently, it doesn’t support more than a master or any database other than SQLite on the master node. So, defining requirements and objectives is vastly important when choosing a default container orchestration tool.

 

If your primary concern is ensuring your cloud-based environment and applications are secure, K3s is your best option.

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Kubernetes in Cloud Migration Solutions

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Kubernetes in Cloud Migration Solutions

Migrating to an open cloud environment allows companies to avoid overhead related to on-premises infrastructure. In addition, cloud migration helps organizations gain a better understanding of application traffic, develop a robust disaster recovery strategy, and improve security.

 

Containerization or container orchestration platforms such as Kubernetes, also known as K8s, can help developers migrate application containers to the cloud, as the aptly named containers neatly package all necessary application components in manageable block units. With the user-friendly Kubernetes Dashboard interface, developers can easily deploy, troubleshoot, and manage their many containerized applications and cluster resources.

 

In this blog post, we discuss the application of Kubernetes in cloud migration solutions and the process of moving apps to Kubernetes.

 

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is a microservices orchestration tool and open-source container developed by the smart cookies at Google. Kubernetes provides an extremely resilient distributed infrastructure with multiple benefits, including no deployment downtime, scalability, automatic rollback, and self-sustaining containers.

 

Kubernetes’ main objective is to simplify container management by providing REST APIs with the required functionalities. You can also use Kubernetes as a Service (KaaS) solutions to run clusters in various public or private cloud environments such as Azure and AWS, as well as platforms like OpenStack and Apache Mesos. 

 

Why Use Kubernetes?

Migrating to a container-based cloud setting like Kubernetes allows you to utilize multi-cloud and hybrid cloud platforms, and manage far greater workloads and unanticipated failures.

 

Merchant-neutral

 

Public cloud providers provide a wide range of container orchestration products developed on top of their Kubernetes managed services. Organizations taking the merchant-agnostic can create, design, and manage multi-cloud and hybrid cloud platforms without the danger of merchant lock-in. Kubernetes allows you to easily utilize a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy.

 

Elasticity

 

Managing extensive workloads in cloud environments demands effective autoscaling capabilities. You can upgrade your system’s scaling abilities by creating a container platform. The Kubernetes Horizontal Pod Autoscaler (HPA) allows clusters to increase or reduce the number of active applications during performance surges or during high traffic. Therefore, minimizing instances of surprise system outages and the resulting issues.

 

Fortitude

 

Managing critical failures with dedicated code is important for handling and recovering data from unexpected errors in contemporary applications. To minimize the impact these failures have, developers used to spend a lot of time and effort simulating as many errors as possible to be sufficiently prepared. Now, ReplicaSet helps them overcome this challenge by keeping a certain number of pods active.

 

Service discovery

 

Microservices engineers must manage the availability of their applications in order to provide the intended service and function. Moreover, they need to ensure that the service continues to operate without exception, in response to customer requests. The Kubernetes service discovery trait controls this so that engineers can spend more time on development projects.

 

How Kubernetes Can Assist With Cloud Migration

Containers are standard software units that pack all the required code and dependencies for applications to run. Developers can use containers to deploy and run applications quickly and easily. Benefits provided by containers:

 

  • Scalability – pods work as duplicate units in Kubernetes. Pods comprise multiple containers deployed together. A cluster is a collection of nodes that hold pods. Adding pods to an application can help to seamlessly grow and scale it.

 

  • Portability – Containers simplify software development, deployment, and usability, providing the ability to run software in and across a variety of cloud environments.

 

Companies commonly acquire multiple containers that require management, monitoring, deployment, and reliable connectivity in a cloud environment. Containerization platforms such as Kubernetes make it easy for developers to effectively manage these many containers.

 

Developers can easily move the application container to the cloud as the containers pack the application components into manageable block units. Hands-on management of containers can be tricky, which is why engineers use Kubernetes to migrate applications to the cloud and coordinate systems.

 

Kubernetes Cloud Migration Strategies

Below are the most popular migration strategies to a cloud-based container management platform.

 

Rehosting

 

Also commonly known as lift and shift, this strategy is the simplest. Complete applications and web services with all of their components are rolled into a Kubernetes cluster. This approach entails encasing your application in a container before deploying by configuring Kube yaml files. This approach is the fastest way to migrate to Kubernetes in the cloud as no changes to the app are required.

 

On the other hand, this strategy isn’t the most efficient way to make use of the cloud environment provided by Kubernetes. Firstly, all the fantastic benefits and flexibility of Kubernetes will not be available straight away, but the services and app components can be further broken down into additional nodes after the initial cloud migration completes.

 

Replatform

 

This strategy requires specific preparation of the app along with making fundamental changes to the way the app works for migration to be successful. The migration process often involves dividing functions and services into separate containers and pods. Using the same application with different configurations is a quick solution to replatforming services.

 

However, replatforming takes more time than rehosting, as preparing applications for a container-based cloud setting is a complicated process. The process can be simplified by using local Kubernetes clusters and Minikube.

 

Migrating to a cloud cluster such as GKE or Azure becomes simpler when the updated version is available and the cloud cluster is set out. Applications can even be tested in Minikube to guarantee a smooth transition.

 

Refactoring

 

This method requires altering the entire application and supporting services. Refactoring migrations provide the ability to take full advantage of the cloud by redesigning the entire application. For example, cloud-native frameworks like Knative can be utilized to rebuild services intended to work with Kubernetes. This approach also allows you to operate serverless workloads in the cloud.

 

The downside, much longer migration times and extra resource requirements. The main advantage of this approach is a resulting application that is fully scalable and cloud-native. Use of this process is only recommended if codebase is necessary to support a large version upgrade, or if the goal is to achieve a completely cloud-native infrastructure.

 

Conclusion

Migrating to the cloud via a containerization platform such as Kubernetes provides many benefits but also challenges for developers. The ability to seamlessly migrate entire applications to the cloud with all components wrapped in an easily manageable package saves a lot of time and resources. In addition, companies can gain a better understanding of application traffic, develop a robust disaster recovery strategy, and improve their cloud security infrastructure.

 

Kubernetes is also future-proof, with advanced applications being created to improve its capabilities and offering. For example, Prometheus Kubernetes is an open-source instrument specifically designed to monitor the performance of cloud servers and migrated applications.

 

However, while K8s is a powerful tool, it can often be overkill for simpler applications that are not too complex, are not intended to drastically scale, and were not designed to support a vast audience. This complex application can be cumbersome and requires the adaptation of existing software to facilitate smooth migrations.  

 

Companies utilizing Kubernetes to begin cloud migration practices should select a migration strategy that works best for certain applications by exploring its specific characteristics and functions.

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