Features

Scott Charles – T-Systems International

CTO brings tailored healthcare cloud offering to market

Ransomware attacks on hospitals can be devastating, and despite healthcare organizations’ escalating spending on security, cyberattacks targeting patients’ information are becoming more common. In fact, a recent study from the University of California, San Diego, concluded that healthcare cyberattacks should be treated as regional disasters.

Because healthcare organizations are facing such rising security costs and other financial burdens, they’re having to spend more capital more often. So, many are trying to reduce their overhead by moving what they can to the cloud.

But for security and operability reasons, some things can’t be moved to the public cloud. Take, for example, an on-location application that syncs the ID bracelets of a mother and her child in the maternity ward, requiring both to be at the door for the child to leave. Hospitals can’t put that in the public cloud, because they’ll lose vital security features. The same applies to other applications in areas like radiology, medication dispensing and so forth.

Scott Charles | Chief Technology Officer of Health | T-Systems International

Scott Charles | Chief Technology Officer of Health | T-Systems International

“Unfortunately, many people have the mindset that you can just pick everything up and put it in the cloud,” says Scott Charles, chief technology officer of health at T-Systems North America. “Feasibility-wise, you can’t. So that’s what we come in with NetApp to do. And we have multiple tricks up our sleeve; we can help offset costs by moving those different technologies without any impact on the business.”

Charles likes to joke that the partnership between T-Systems North America, an IT and digital transformation company owned by Deutsche Telekom, and NetApp, a San Jose-based cloud data storage provider, was like “getting married without a first kiss” because the companies had an instant meeting of the minds on healthcare.

“It really has been an incredible journey,” Charles says. “We saw the same needs. Companies want to get out of the data center business, but they all can’t to go to the public cloud, and they don’t want to end up with disconnects in serviceability.”

Managing everything, regardless of location, is what T-Systems does best. And its partnership with NetApp has allowed it to deliver bespoke cloud offerings using NetApp’s technology.

A recipe for tailored transformation

The partnership with NetApp, which grew out of a relationship going back 25 years, just made sense to Charles. NetApp is seen as a trusted advisor inside the T-Systems partner ecosystem; there are almost 3,000 NetApp storage arrays deployed globally in different platforms.

Over half of the total installed network attached storage in T-Systems is distributed by NetApp—which comes to more than 200 petabytes total. The company has the largest footprint in healthcare data storage. And NetApp works closely with electronic health record companies to adapt to their needs.

But that’s just the storage piece. T-Systems then swoops in, and, with the help of other partners and its engineering and architecture teams, builds out an entire platform for each healthcare provider. Think of a cake; the product offerings from NetApp and other partners are the raw ingredients, and T-Systems has the recipe, which it then uses to bake a tailored product.

Scott Charles | Chief Technology Officer of Health | T-Systems International

That process often entails explaining to healthcare organizations that they have to go through a transformation stage to get cloud-ready. It can bring a heavy price tag, but T-Systems tries to soften the blow.

“You kind of stair-step them—‘Let’s get you through immediate pains and gains toward your objective, the features that you want—security to resiliency to full functionality capacity and cost savings—and then start the transformation phase,’” Charles says.

T-Systems develops the roadmap for each healthcare organization. But it can’t do that without NetApp’s aid.

“NetApp and T-Systems are helping healthcare organizations meet the most demanding healthcare service-level objectives and empower healthcare users to reduce complexity and costs while remaining compliant and meeting certification status,” says Brian O’Mahoney, NetApp’s EHR practice manager.

Developing twin core data centers

Another key feature of T-Systems’ healthcare offering is its twin core data center concept. T-Systems now has 12 twin core data centers globally, having reduced its footprint after increasing efficiencies.

The idea behind the twin cores is that they’re not stacked on top of each other, but rather geographically distanced. And each data center has its own redundancy of power, cooling and networking, its own security footprint and so forth—all the capabilities necessary to function independently.

Scott Charles | Chief Technology Officer of Health | T-Systems International

To the customer, it looks like there’s a single data center, but the workload is distributed between the two data centers. According to Charles, this means automatic, high availability of services. And if a disaster strikes and takes out one of the data centers, the other one can pick up the slack until its twin gets back online.

“Though we notify the customer that, yeah, we’ve lost a data center, and we’re in the process of recovering it, to their business, the capacity, the functionality, the resiliency, the security is still intact,” Charles says. “We may lose one firewall in a primary data center; we don’t lose the entire workload.”

A happy ending for customers

Along with help from NetApp, Charles couldn’t have gotten T-Systems’ healthcare project off the ground without the help of his fellow CTO and Enterprise Architect Tom Cody.

“Tom and I have worked together for almost 10 years,” Charles says. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for his engagement and support. Some people go to Google; I go to Tom.”

Scott Charles | Chief Technology Officer of Health | T-Systems International

The NetApp collaboration was their shared brainchild, but hatching the idea was the easy part. They also had to embark on an internal diplomacy campaign. T-Systems’ parent company had changed its focus in recent years, and there was a gap between that objective and the direction the healthcare vertical was taking.

“We were basically told, ‘Go run the Daytona 500,’ and we were like, ‘Great, we’ve got two bicycles,’” Charles says. “But that’s how we developed what we did with NetApp, was to mitigate that gap.”

Once they did that, they had leadership’s full support. They even met with the company’s global CEO, who gave the marching orders to make the project happen. And in the end, they took the healthcare vertical from a conversation with NetApp to a full-fledged concept, then brought that concept to market.

“This even getting to the stage it’s at, with us and NetApp, that’s been a huge success,” Charles says. “My proof is in my delivery of my portfolio, at the end of the day.”

View this feature in the Summer I 2023 Edition here.

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