How Cardinal Health Is Redefining App Modernization In Healthcare

Apps play a critical role in an ever-expanding range of healthcare services, as patients and providers increasingly expect streamlined, engaging digital experiences. This means that IT must become faster, more agile, and free from the constraints of everyday infrastructure management.

At Cardinal Health, we are continuously enhancing our technology to empower innovators across our organization as they strive to build connections across the continuum of care. Through our efforts, we have adopted a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline that powers breakthroughs and drives innovation. Our CI/CID pipelines use a combination of Cloud Build for foundational elements, as well as our internal DevSecOps platform, NitroDX, to deploy our application workloads built on Google Cloud.

This CI/CD pipeline powered the development of our Pharmacy Marketing Advantage (PMA) Commerce, which was built from the ground up on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), to provide independent pharmacists with a digital platform that expands online shopping capabilities for patients by offering more than 11,000 over-the-counter products. We also replatformed our Order Express tool, which is a simple, reliable web ordering application for independent pharmacists, from on-prem to Google Compute Engine and GKE, which allowed us to shift from quarterly releases to weekly on-demand releases.

Our application teams work in close alignment with our product teams and handle everything from basic software updates to more advanced cloud-native app development. We place tremendous value on our ability to empower our application teams, and we invest in tools and technologies to make them as efficient and successful as possible.

As part of our efforts to optimize applications and deliver engaging digital experiences for our customers and their patients, we saw the value of rethinking our approach to storage and overall IT administration. Working with the NetApp Cloud Volume Service (CVS), a fully managed storage service, and Google Cloud, we fundamentally changed our IT capabilities.

Accelerating app development

As a cloud-first company, Cardinal Health has embraced a managed approach to IT provisioning in many areas. When we offload responsibilities like infrastructure maintenance, patching, and updates, we enable our developers to focus on continuous innovations that directly impact the quality of patient and provider experiences.

We’ve made measurable progress in automating our CI/CD pipelines to simplify provisioning Virtual Machines (VMs), managing firewall rules, launching Google Cloud projects, and more. Our NitroDx platform also significantly reduced development time from weeks to minutes, improving the software delivery process and accelerating digital transformation.

Google Cloud is our primary cloud services vendor and has removed much of the heavy lifting related to server provisioning, firmware patches, and similar tasks. We rely on a mix of Google Cloud services, including Compute Engine, GKE, BigQuery, and Vertex AI to deliver patient-centric solutions. We also work closely with partners like NetApp to improve our storage management at a much greater scale and more efficiently than we could do on our own.

By using a combination of NetApp and Google Cloud solutions, we’ve been able to decouple storage from our underlying infrastructure to make better use of our resources and accelerate app development. When running on-prem, shared storage proved to be a time and resource drain.

If an application needed shared storage in our legacy on-prem environment, we had to communicate the requirements to an engineer and create a change control. And even then, if all staff and funding were in place to support the change, it would take weeks to complete. This held up projects and delayed our time to market.

We quickly overcame this challenge with NetApp CVS. Through this tool, we can delegate permissions directly within a teams’ Google Cloud project, allowing them to administer their own shared volumes. This translates to on-demand shared storage without operational complexities or the need for dedicated teams to manage it.

We were an early adopter of NetApp CVS, and we’re happy to have made that decision. In addition to cost savings and faster time-to-market, we can now provide our staff with more professional development opportunities. The team members who made up the dedicated storage team now work across the cloud organization, focused on innovation and enablement rather than maintenance.

A stronger foundation for developers to stand on

We constantly work to fill gaps at any point in the developer experience. Containerizing our apps and deploying to GKE has been a major part of this process, driving efficiencies through consolidation and improving our processes to keep our operating systems patched, updated and maintained.

In the past, it was also difficult for us to get reproducible or CI/CD pipelines into our application spaces. Now, we make things easier for application teams as we can provide a CI/CD pipeline for the containers themselves, automating more of the underlying technology to keep developers moving forward.

As we shift more traditional virtual machine (VM) workloads into GKE and leverage NetApp CVS for shared storage, our developers can more easily plug into file-based services. This further accelerates app development and deployments and fuels a more easily managed, efficient CI/CD framework focused on value, not system maintenance.

Smart, data-driven decisions

We’ve been impressed by how quickly we can aggregate data, analyze it, and uncover insights with BigQuery, Vertex AI, and Dataproc — at a speed that would not have been possible without Google Cloud. Vertex AI pipelines helped us automate and standardize our ML operations so data scientists can focus on innovating code vs. managing deployments. This allowed us to make improvements in areas such as more accurately predicting market demand and providing more relevant product recommendations to our customers.

To date, Google Cloud has collaborated with us on many projects, giving us access to early-release products, listening to our needs, and applying our feedback to their product development. Likewise, NetApp continues to work closely with us to expand what is possible with NetApp CVS, particularly with the types of data we can store and the ability to manage it easily.

It’s an excellent partnership, and our work with Google Cloud and NetApp helps us redefine the possibilities of app modernization in healthcare. We can continue to push boundaries of speed, agility, and success of CI/CD pipelines. It’s exciting to see what we are accomplishing today and what we’ll do in the future to constantly improve our customer’s digital experience.

Learn how integrated solutions with NetApp on Google Cloud can help you unlock the full potential of your data.

By: Louis Verzi (Principal Engineer, Cardinal Health)
Source: Google Cloud Blog

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