Following on from How VMware is Accelerating NHS Cloud Adoption, this post dives into more detail around how the UK National Health Service (NHS) can use VMware Cloud on AWS to bridge the gap between existing investments and Public Cloud.
Part 2: Bridging the Gap Between NHS and Public Cloud with VMware Cloud on AWS
Example NHS VMware Cloud on AWS Use Cases
Modern Applications: The VMware strategy of late has seen a significant shift towards cloud agnostic software and the integration of cloud-native application development. VMware Cloud on AWS makes use of the full VMware Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC) stack; enhancing security of NHS applications with micro-segmentation, and future-proofing application development with Project Pacific (Understand VMware Tanzu, Pacific, and Kubernetes for VMware Administrators).
Data Centre Expansion or Disaster Recovery: VMware Cloud on AWS can reduce NHS data centre footprint on-premise, by expanding new capacity into VMware Cloud on AWS (Deploy and Configure VMware Cloud on AWS), or through the addition of a Disaster Recovery (DR) site accompanied with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM). Legacy Data Centre Evacuation: VMware Cloud on AWS can replace legacy data centres by facilitating the migration of VMware Virtual Machines (VMs) from end of life hardware to VMware Cloud on AWS (Migrate VMware Virtual Machines to VMware Cloud on AWS). In some cases, dependant on internal finance policies, NHS organisations may be able to capitalise the cost of reserved instances (dedicated physical hosts for 1 or 3 years) in VMware Cloud on AWS using recently introduced IFRS 16 Leases. For more information review the Capitalising Your Cloud Booklet.
Hosting NHS Patient Data: There are a number of security principles which should be implemented to host patient or sensitive data, further information is available on the NHS Digital website. Important detail on the shared security model of Public Cloud, and further VMware and AWS specific links, can be found in the How VMware is Accelerating NHS Cloud Adoption article. A summary excerpt is below:
“In January 2018 NHS Digital released guidance for NHS and social care data: off-shoring and the use of public cloud services, along with a toolset for identifying and assessing data risk classification. The NHS and social care data: off-shoring and the use of public cloud services guidance paper published by NHS Digital states; ‘NHS and social care organisations can safely put health and care data, including non-personal data and confidential patient information, into the public cloud’. The NHS and social care providers may use cloud computing services for NHS data, providing it is hosted in the UK, or European Economic Area (EEA), or in the US where covered by Privacy Shield.”
“Each individual data controller organisation is responsible for implementing and reviewing their own processes around data risk classifications, however to assist NHS Digital have provided a consistent health and social care data risk model. For organisations that do not yet have cloud governance in place NHS Digital have also provided guidance on the health and social care cloud risk framework.
Cloud services introduce a shared security model. NHS organisations can be compliant by implementing a cloud risk framework and proportionate controls outlined by NHS Digital; summarised in the health and social care cloud security one page overview. Security considerations for different data classifications are detailed in the health and social care cloud security – good practice guide.”
Moving to Internet First: As well as the Cloud First strategy outlined in the article referenced above, the UK Government also seeks to make public sector applications, systems, and services accessible over the Internet, with the Internet First strategy. VMware Cloud on AWS can utilise existing on-premise Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) connections, but can also offer the ideal opportunity to move services to Internet facing. This can be supported with the correct network design, and through making use of native AWS services. There is more information below on how VMware Cloud on AWS compliements Internet First, and further reading on the NHS Digital Internet First policy can be found here.
“Health and care services now have an Internet First policy that states new digital services should operate over the internet. Existing services should also be updated to do the same at the earliest opportunity and ideally by March 2021.”
Example Native AWS Service Integrations
In the example architecture below a Stretched Cluster has been deployed across 2 AWS Availability Zones in the London region (eu-west-2), providing VMware Virtual Machine (VM) availability across sites and fault domains. Amazon Direct Connect provides a private link from on-premise networks and should be deployed with resilience, a standby Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypted connection can also be used. To see these features in action review Watch VMware vSphere HA Recover Virtual Machines Across AWS Availability Zones, and Watch a Failover from Direct Connect to Backup VPN for VMware Cloud on AWS. Optional access to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) is provided by the existing on-premise HSCN connection.
Focusing on the VMware Cloud on AWS connectivity into native AWS services from the example architecture we can note the following:
- Connectivity to native AWS services is provided using Elastic Network Interfaces (ENI), a 25Gbps link into Amazon’s backbone network.
- Traffic traversing the ENI (ingress and egress) is not chargeable. Any deployed services in AWS are chargeable as normal against the connected AWS account.
- Using a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) endpoint NHS organisations can make use of Regional Amazon services such as Simple Storage Services (S3), which offers a tiered approach to object storage and pricing, or Glacier for data archive.
- Using the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) router NHS organisations can make use of services such as Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), or managed databases with Relational Database Service (RDS).
An example scenario could be an on-premise application with a large database which does not have the development resource or funding to refactor for native Public Cloud. It could also be that refactoring this application doesn’t offer any additional business benefit or functionality. In this case the database could be migrated to RDS, and the front end web / application servers could be migrated ‘as is’ to run on VMware Cloud on AWS. Using the 25Gbps ENI would, in most cases, remove any latency concerns between the application and the database.
It is important to remember that it isn’t only the consumption of traditional infrastructure services that is on offer. Opening up existing workloads to native AWS services drives innovation and modernisation of applications. One example is Amazon’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered voice assistant Alexa, which now gives health advice using information from the NHS website. In addition to AI and Machine Learning, AWS has a portfolio of data lakes and analytics services, enabling cost effective methods for NHS organisations to collect, store, analyse, and share data.
In the case of Internet First, VMware Cloud on AWS in conjunction with native AWS can help scale and consolidate publicly accessible applications, as documented in VMware Cloud on AWS Reference Architectures. In one such example, the following AWS services are used to facilitate public services hosted in VMware Cloud on AWS:
- Amazon Route 53 is a highly available and scalable cloud Domain Name System (DNS) web service for name resolution.
- Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets. The Application Load Balancer is best suited for load balancing of HTTP and HTTPS traffic operating at the individual request level (Layer 7).
- AWS Certificate Manager is a service that lets you easily provision, manage, and deploy public and private SSL/TLS certificates for use with AWS services and your internal connected resources.
Additional optional services for performance and security:
- Amazon CloudFront is a fast Content Delivery Network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers with low latency, high transfer speeds.
- AWS Shield is a managed Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service that safeguards applications running on AWS.
- AWS WAF is a Web Application Firewall that helps protect your web applications from common web exploits that could affect application availability or compromise security.
- AWS CloudTrail is a service that enables governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account.
Further Reading: How to Deploy and Configure VMware Cloud on AWS (Part 1), How to Migrate VMware Virtual Machines to VMware Cloud on AWS (Part 2).