To deliver the digital ambitions of the NHS and deal with the increasing demand on health services requires intelligent connectivity. Intelligent connectivity is the foundation technology that ensure critical applications and information is always available at the point and instant it is needed.
Without good and reliable connectivity the technology we use will not work. Connectivity is a key foundation in realising the NHS’s ambition for digital transformation. The next generation of intelligent connectivity is vital to empower the NHS professionals and citizens to address the increasing demand on the NHS (see previous articles, “Long live the NHS!” and “Empowering health professionals”). Intelligent connectivity enables critical applications to be prioritised, provides network agility and performance for the cloud and flexibility of physical connectivity. It improves organisational efficiency through increased flexibility, agility, security and efficient use of bandwidth. It gives you greater control of your network, makes it smarter, faster and safer.
Intelligent connectivity underpins highly critical and bandwidth-hungry solutions such as:
• Community based mobility solutions and preventative care for citizens
• Specialists collaborating together to review high quality MRI scans and X-Rays.
• Video consultation between doctors and patient on care reviews.
SDN v Traditional Networks
Intelligent connectivity delivers a software-defined defined network (SDN). SDN and network function virtualisation capabilities are now becoming mainstream enabling much greater control, flexibility and visibility across not just the organisation’s network but across applications and security. This is what makes connectivity intelligent.
The traditional network is becoming increasingly complex to manage securely and reliably. This is further compounded through the ambitions and pace of digital change, changing profile of applications, the use of the cloud, increased bandwidth demands and increased security threats.
Responsiveness for critical applications
Health applications are critical in delivering the best and most effective care. The latest health applications are highly data intensive driving demand for high levels of bandwidth with low latency e.g. large medical images. Video conferencing and collaborating on medical data also drives significant demand on the network, often across multiple physical sites. The critical health applications must be responsive and work for the end users. Intelligent connectivity enables this with usage analytics in order to prioritise the right applications and their use of bandwidth. This means critical applications always take priority ensuring that staff have the information at the critical times.
Agility to underpin the cloud
In my conversations with NHS CIOs, many are on the journey to adopt cloud based solutions, often starting with Office365. They are starting to see the benefits to their organisations of rapid deployment, agility and reduced TCO.
As cloud brings agility the connectivity needs to be agile too. Accessing cloud applications via traditional WAN architectures can traverse unnecessary hops and introduce additional latency with more complex time-consuming change process. Intelligent Connectivity offers the agility to quickly setup connectivity based on business usage of applications, self-service and intelligently steering traffic based on where the application are hosted without the unnecessary latency.
Intelligent Connectivity offers local internet breakout for easier access to SaaS cloud services such as Office 365 directly without additional hops to a centralised Internet breakout.
Additionally the network can be extended into the cloud using private connectivity such as Microsoft ExpressRoute or Amazon Direct Connect for higher security, reliability, and speeds with lower latencies.
Flexibility to use the right physical connectivity
Intelligent Connectivity can be delivered using a combination of Internet and MPLS. This offers the ability to make use of carrier-grade MPLS and Internet, consumer grade Internet or mobile networks such as 4G and 5G.
This provides greater flexibility and new possibilities of a much broader geographical reach and flexibility to quickly on-board new sites and also access the internet directly. This underpins agility as estates change and enables flexible working in the community.
It also offers a cost saving for appropriate scenarios where the use of lower cost connectivity such as the internet can be used for additional contingency, testing new services or replacing dedicated circuits.
In order to retain the public’s trust, patients’ sensitive, personal data must stay secure and confidential. Cloud adoption, use of the internet and flexible working is challenging the traditional security model. Visibility across the network is now critical in defending against the continuous security threats. SDN provides a more agile and controlled security with end-to-end encryption across the entire network with all endpoints authenticated via key-exchange.
Foundation for the future of Healthcare
As the NHS looks to a digital future, their intelligent connectivity is fundamental to their digital roadmap. Without this there will be shaky foundations unable to cope with the increasing complexity and demand.
To find how it can meet your challenges, join us at:
1. “Is the public sector network ready for the digital age” Public Sector SD-WAN webinar on 11 February.
2. SD-WAN exploration day with BT and IDC on 28 February,
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to attend.