Delivering 'as-a-service' infrastructure via the cloud

Extreme Networks Australia
Friday, 25 September, 2020

The healthcare industry is rapidly adopting a cloud-first, ‘as-a-service’ model within their IT infrastructure. This is to deliver better patient services at the bedside, underpinned by greater flexibility and automation at the network layer, with IT security being of critical strategic importance.

In recent findings, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) identified that the medical industry is under increased pressure to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and that the health, aged care and medical research sectors have become a prime target for both Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors and ransomware attacks.

For example, one of the key challenges cited in the industry is security vulnerabilities of legacy medical IoT devices. Add to this the fact that newer connected devices, now in widespread use, are often built with commodity software and hardware components making them just as much of a security threat to cyber criminals who are highly familiar with these protocols. Network management is critical to gaining the visibility required to ensure patches are up-to-date and suspicious anomalies are identified and actioned, before they become a full-blown breach.

In a recent survey, Extreme Networks found that, whilst 98% of healthcare organisations are hosting at least one solution in the cloud, for many, network infrastructure remains intransigently stuck in its current mode of operation. And that is primarily because there is a (false) market perception that there is no single vendor that can provide an as-a-service, end-to-end network management layer across the entire infrastructure.

The traditional network in hospitals, health and aged care facilities is also under increased pressure due to the exponential growth in network connected users and devices to provide enhanced IT services at the bedside, improve medical treatment and health outcomes for patients. The traditional network has been extended even further during the pandemic with an increased use of telehealth services and connected health monitoring devices for patients at home. All this is culminating in extra strain on the IT teams needed to support the explosion of connections and performance demands, not to mention the fundamental cost implications of simply adding network capacity in legacy CAPEX models.

Given the current extraordinary times, it is vital that the status quo around network infrastructure is designed, built and run to ensure it meets the requirements for modern healthcare services.

The sheer scale, proliferation and diversity of devices in a standard healthcare environment means effective management and security of the underlying network has to be supported from the edge to the core by scalable, on-demand and automated tools.

Extreme Networks’ approach is to allow healthcare providers to consume network services flexibly, driven by ExtremeCloud IQ, a fourth generation, containerised cloud network management platform that works across the Extreme Wired and Wireless portfolio. The ability to drive existing Extreme Wired, Wireless and IoT security capabilities from a continuously updating cloud platform is key. This model creates a more flexible and responsive network solution for healthcare providers. ExtremeCloud IQ also utilises automated AI and machine learning capabilities, along with data analytics, to continually self-correct and improve network performance, and alert for anomalies that might indicate attempted breaches or device issues.

For patients accessing telehealth services or with monitoring devices at home, it’s important to not only ensure the priority and security of the audio and video session and any patient data in transit, but also the security of the IoT devices themselves, now that they are beyond the very edge of the organisation’s network. It is also a challenging time for network administrators, who suddenly have to deal with rapidly increasing demands on network resources and a far more diverse and remote IT environment. Healthcare organisations need to question the status quo and look to invest in a flexible, cloud-driven network infrastructure that can easily adapt and scale beyond the limits of traditional hardware-based solutions.

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